Luna Park 1999 (Highland HL458/459)
Stadium De Luna Park, Buenos Aires, Argentina – September 12th, 1999
Disc 1 (57:23): Opening, Yours Is No Disgrace, America, Lightning Strikes, excerpt from Time And A Word, New Language, excerpt from Survival, Perpetual Change, Interviews I
Disc 2 (50:50): excerpts from Nous Sommes Du Soleil, Homeworld (The Ladder), It Will Be A Good Day (The River), Nine Voices (Longwalker), Owner Of A Lonely Heart, Roundabout, I’ve Seen All Good People, Interviews II
Yes’ original songs in the nineties were greatly uneven. But the Keystudio material from the middle of the decade was a good but tentative step back to progressive rock and Open Your Eyes was more of a Chris Squire solo album. The Ladder has a unity of vision and performance that makes it one of their best albums of the nineties. Having producer Bruce Fairbairn motivate and stimulate the band helped greatly.
Before the album’s September 20th release, Yes played a quick nine date tour in South America. In Buenos Aires they sold out the 7,000 capacity Stadium De Luna Park. Luna Park 1999 is one of the very few silver titles from Yes’ Ladder tour. It was issued soon after the show and is sourced from a radio broadcast in Argentina of the event. The sound quality is very clear, powerful and perfect. The broadcast unfortunately omitts “Clap,” “Mood For A Day,” “Hearts,” “Awaken” and “To Be Alive” from the encores. In compensation Highland include two interview tracks totaling about fifteen minutes.
A review of this performance in Rolling Stone stated: “Thirty years after the release of their first album, Yes performed for the fourth time in Buenos Aires. Last year, to present a middling album as Open Your Eyes, the band offered a concert based in their golden classics of the 70s, adding only two new songs to the setlist. After all, it was the first time that Yes visited Argentina with the historical guitarist Steve Howe.
“This year, instead, Yes recorded The Ladder, a formidable album that summarizes in style their history and has nothing to begrudge from the best of their former production. The heroes of progressive rock decided to present six new songs, alongside with classics as Yours Is No Disgrace, Perpetual Change, Roundabout, Paul Simon’s America, Awaken or Hearts. And they succeeded, because the new songs are as good as the old ones and the emotion was the same as ever: one needs only to flow to enjoy a music with a highly uncommon creativity in these days’ rock.
“From a technical point of view, Yes’ performance was irreproachable: the band comes near to perfection in complex instrumental passages that seem almost impossible to perform live. The role of bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White in the creation of musical atmospheres exceeds by far the ‘rhythm section.’ There are not many guitar players as Steve Howe, and the magical voice of Jon Anderson remains unimpaired after three decades. The younger ones match the rest. Billy Sherwood – not so newbie, he’s been ten years in Yes – shines in the rocker passages; and keyboardist Igor Khoroshev – a fan but not a clone of Rick Wakeman – adds a certain jazzy nuance in the arrangements.
“As other important groups of rock story, Yes has already made its more substantial contribution: a music as original as inimitable that expanded the boundaries of the genre. Now they just record works as good as The Ladder and perform shows as touching as the one in the Luna Park. The legend is alive, and in excellent health.” (Rolling Stone (Spanish Edition), October, 1999, Daniel Rivera).
The performance is interesting for several reasons. They start the show with “Yours Is No Disgrace,” and Alan White tries the start the song again while they rest begin “America.” The band are in laughter and at the end of the song Chris Squire plays a bit of “Yours Is No Disgrace” for White.
“It’s really great to be back in Buenos Aires…we’d like to do some new songs, how do you say it in Spanish? We have a new album called The Ladder that will be out in a few weeks” before they play the first new song “Lightening Strikes.” Unlike the studio version, which starts off with the taped samba played on flute, this beings softly on acoustic guitar before it begins kicking into gear. Steve Howe adds excellent acoustic guitar frills in the mix.
A virtue of this tape is to have rare live versions of several other songs from The Ladder. “New Language,” one of Yes’ most adventurous and fascinating tracks from the new album was only ever performed ten times. The first four are in the first four shows in South America (meaning Buenos Aires was the last), and in the first six shows in North America (in Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida). “Nine Voices (Longwalker)” was played in only twenty out of the eighty-seven Ladder shows, but the biggest tragedy is that “To Be Alive,” played in only four shows including this one, is cut from the broadcast. The standout new track is the opening song off of the album “Homeworld.” Anderson’s vocal delivery is much more aggressive and passionate than the studio version.
The classics that make up the rest of the set are all well played and are played with enthusiasm (“Yours Is No Disgrace,” “Perpetual Change” and “Roundabout” in particular). The bonus interview is a nice bonus. They are asked the standard questions about the recording of the new album, the tour and other questions. Bonuses like this are always a welcomed touch by bootlabels to gain insight into a particular time and place. Luna Park 1999, despite it being incomplete, is recommended simply because releases from this tour are so rare and hard to find. These are songs that were dropped the following year for the Masterworks tour and have never been heard live again.