Fly At Last (Virtuoso 131/132)
Shibuya Kokaido, Tokyo, Japan – April 19th, 2012
Disc 1 (75:03): The Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra, Yours Is No Disgrace, Tempus Fugit, I’ve Seen All Good People, And You And I, Solitaire, Second Initial, Fly From Here – Overture, Fly From Here – Part I – We Can Fly, Fly From Here – Part II – Sad Night At The Airfield, Fly From Here – Part III – Madman At The Screens, Fly From Here – Part IV – Bumpy Ride, Fly From Here – Part V – We Can Fly (Reprise)
Disc 2 (44:14): Heart Of The Sunrise, Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Starship Trooper, Roundabout
Yes’ travels in support of their latest studio release Fly From Here brought them to Japan for several dates in April 2012. Fly At Last features the third night of the tour on April 19th in the Shibuya Kokaido in Tokyo in an excellent audience recording of the entire gig. The taper must have been close to the action because he captures all of the detail from the stage and produces an amazing listening experience.
Although many CDR titles have been issued covering these gigs, this is the first (and so far only) silver title. Given the great performance and excellent sound quality, it is a great choice and an essential title for the Yes collection.
Yes’ strange and convoluted history took perhaps its strangest turn several years ago when Jon Anderson dropped out of live touring with the band because of illness. Not only was he replaced by Benoît David for live performance, the band took it as an opportunity to record fresh material with, essentially, the Drama lineup of 1980.
Not only was Geoffrey Downes brought in to play keyboards again, but Trevor Horn produced the studio album. It also helped that David’s singing voice sounds closer to Horn than to Anderson. The centerpiece of the album is the twenty-five minute “We Can Fly From Here” suite, taking its inspiration from the song Horn wrote for Yes in 1979, a tune he felt was the direction they should have been on after the disaster of Tormato.
The setlist also owes much to the Drama lineup’s only tour in 1980. Instead of beginning with “Firebird Suite,” they start with “Young Person’s Guide To The Orchestra” leading into “Yours Is No Disgrace.” The new singer Jon Davison sounds closer to Anderson than Horn, but has a gorgeous and unique intonation of the older material and doesn’t have any cracks in his voice.
And, as if to dispel any doubts about where their current muse lies, they follow with “Tempus Fugit,” perhaps the most energetic tune on Drama.
Chris Squire serves as mc for the shows and tells the audience that “it’s great to be back for our third night in Tokyo. We’ve really enjoyed ourselves and we’ve had some good shows here.” He then acknowledges “the return of Geoffrey Downes” and Jon Davison from Los Angeles, performing his eighth show with the band.
Two more older songs, “I’ve Seen All Good People” and “And You And I” are given perfunctory workouts.
Steve Howe follows with his two song solo interlude. Instead of the expected “Clap” and / or “Mood For A Day,” he plays two other songs. “Solitaire” comes from the new album We Can Fly, a mellow Spanish inspired meditation. He follows with “Second Initial,” a catchy Chet Atkins inspired tune. He first played it in a solo appearance in Montreux in July, 1979 and has included it in his solo shows and in the latter day Yes tours.
Howe then announces they will play the whole “Fly From Here” suite. Yes’ first epic tune since “In The Presence Of” on Magnification and the longest since “Mind Drive,” it has rightly earned much praise from both fans and critics. The familiar “We Can Fly From Here” melody serves as a common thread throughout the various movements of the piece, bringing thematic unity and tension.
It begins with a brief introduction leading into the familiar tune from the 1980 tour. “Sad Night At The Airfield” is more somber. Starting with acoustic guitar and vocals, it builds into mid-tempo sad melody punctuated by weeping guitars.
“Madman At The Screens” is more low key than the other sections and serves as an excellent contrast with “Bumpy Ride,” perhaps the piece’s most intriguing movement. The contrasting syncopated rhythms with the smooth reprise of the previous’ section’s melody segue right into a reprise of “We Can Fly From Here,” the original tune.
It is such a highlight that the rest of the show sounds rote by comparison. “Heart Of The Sunrise” is nice, but “Owner Of A Lonely Heart” sounds terribly out of place and dated. Howe throws in an interesting guitar intrude at the end. The set ends with “Starship Trooper” and “Roundabout” is the expected encore.
Fly At Last is a fantastic sounding document of a great show. Since it will probably be the only silver pressed title to document the current Yes tour, is absolutely essential to have. It’s hard to argue with the setlist because they include the massive suite plus Howe’s solo contribution, but it would have been great if they would have played even more new songs such as the fantastic “Into The Storm” from the new album, one of the most perfect Yes compositions. Nevertheless, Fly At Last is a must-have.