Songs From Tsongas: 35th Anniversary Concert (Special Edition DVD)


Eagle Vision, 2014

REVIEW BY: Jason Warburg


This is how I choose to remember Yes.

With their classic late-70s lineup of Jon Anderson (vocals), Steve Howe (guitars, harmony vocals), Chris Squire (bass, harmony vocals), Rick Wakeman (keyboards) and Alan White (drums) intact and in fine touring form.

With longtime album cover artist Roger Dean’s stage design providing a suitably otherworldly setting, including a delightfully absurd set of play-along robot-armed drums flanking White’s massive kit.

With a set list spanning their entire career, from the early-days cuts “Sweet Dreams” and “Every Little Thing” (both delivered with terrific energy) to the latter-day numbers “Mind Drive” and “Time Is Time,” with a dozen more classics sprinkled around and in between.

This is the Yes that shattered barriers and created timeless works. This is the Yes that mattered.

The original single-disc edition of Songs From Tsongas covering the last date on the group’s 2004 tour was issued the following year; the 2014 Special Edition adds a bonus-sized bonus track (a 27-minute, bass-solo-laden version of the Tales From Topographic Oceansmy_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 epic “Ritual”), a brief but enjoyable interview with stage designer Dean, and a second DVD capturing ten tracks from the same tour’s stop in Lugano, Switzerland.

Beyond sharp playing, terrific videography, and the unusually wide and deep setlist, this excellent package offers a number of notable moments.

“Mind Drive” is superb, rich with the band’s trademark heavy-soft dynamics and tight little jams, and even offers momentary comic relief when the camera catches Anderson peeking at his teleprompter as he sings, a forgivable offense considering the band had never before performed this 18-minute piece live.

The solo turns this quintet of virtuosos insists upon often irritate me, but Wakeman’s dazzling solo piano intro turns his duet with Anderson on “The Meeting” (a pretty ballad from the Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe album) from a footnote to a bright spot. And the acoustic mini-set that follows offers fresh, exhilarating takes on “Long Distance Runaround” and “Wonderous Stories,” a brilliant Chicago-blues-shuffle version of “Roundabout,” and a somewhat awkward acoustic rendition of “Owner Of A Lonely Heart.”

Down moments are few, but it must be said that even Howe seems rather bored with his showcase tune “Yours Is No Disgrace,” at least until his big solo really gets rolling. And the inclusion of Trevor Rabin’s arena-rock cheese log “Rhythm Of Love” is puzzling, even if Messr.s Howe and Wakeman manage to prog it up a bit around the edges. Finally, even with (or perhaps because of) a setlist this deep, the band omits their two best epics, “Close To The Edge” and “Awaken.” Sigh.

These blemishes aside, the entire DVD is worth it alone for the gritty, fiery, triumphant rendition of album track “South Side Of the Sky” found here, complete with a ferocious musical battle between Howe and Wakeman in the closing section. It was the highlight of this tour, and it’s the highlight of this DVD.

The bonus disc features a much shorter, all-electric set played on a stripped-down stage at the Lugano Jazz Festival, as the quintet tears through nine songs in 70 minutes, another enjoyable document of the band’s final tour of the 2000s in this configuration.

The real Yes is a long-ago memory now, with Howe, Squire and White reduced in recent years to touring theaters with stand-ins for Anderson and Wakeman. Songs From Tsongas offers a welcome reminder of the musical peaks this band was capable of scaling with their “A” team in place and a career-spanning setlist.

Rating: B+

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© 2014 Jason Warburg and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Eagle Vision, and is used for informational purposes only.