An inspired Yes makes up for a flaccid Alan Parsons Project in Vancouver

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ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE GEORGIA STRAIGHT, JULY 23, 1998

There are some bands I used to like in the ’70s that make me embarrassed by that fact in the ’90s. Back in high school, I figured Uriah Heep was the cat’s ass, but now, it’s like, “What was I thinking!” And I still recall how impressed I was to pick up Styx’s The Grand Illusion for just $3.99 at A&B Sound in ’77, never guessing that I’d be grateful to unload it for a buck at a used-record store one day.

I used to think the Alan Parsons Project was pretty special, too, and I’d invest in albums like Pyramid and I Robot. I was particularly drawn to the instrumental tracks, which were sort of a psychedelic cross between Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream. (“Hey man, how many of these ’shrooms should I eat?”) When I heard the Project was warming up for my old prog-rock heroes, Yes, I thought it would be a good idea to arrive at GM Place on time for a change.

Too bad I didn’t get a flat tire on the way last Friday (July 17), though, ’cause straining against a tire iron would have been about as much fun as experiencing the APP.

Alan Parsons is the technical wunderkind who engineered such monumental albums as Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Road, but as the leader of a live band he’s monumentally boring. Not that I wanted the guy to dance a jig or anything, but if he’d shown a speck of enthusiasm, his group might have delivered more than flaccid re-enactments of lightweight pop tunes like “Eye in the Sky” and “Prime Time”. Original Project guitarist Iain Bairnson shot off a spark or two, but everybody else looked and sounded like tired old men going through the motions. Strangely enough, the approving crowd of 4,000 called them back for an encore.

What were they thinking?

The huge letdown with the Alan Parsons Project had me wondering if Yes would strike a similarly depressing blow against my fond memories of ’70s rock, but as soon as guitarist Steve Howe rang out the opening chords of  “Siberian Khatru” and the band leapt wildly into the fray, my doubts were erased. This was prog rock the way I remember it being back when the triple-disc Yessongs LP was a fixture atop my bedroom dresser, folded out to display the cosmic Roger Dean art. As a matter of fact, during the course of its two-hour-plus show, Yes performed all but three of the selections from that live recording of ’73.

I couldn’t have compiled a better set list myself.

At times, Jon Anderson’s vocals got lost in the mix, and the show’s much-ballyhooed “Surround Sound” effect was a hoax as far as I could tell, but it was still the best-sounding rock show I’ve attended at the sonically challenged sports complex. I must admit that the four-part opus “Close to the Edge” embodied the grandiose excesses of ’70s rock, but on the other hand, “Yours Is No Disgrace”—which was almost as long—was a triumphal testament to the era’s adventurous bent.

Other highlights included Howe’s solo rendition of Mason Williams’s “Classical Gas”—which segued nicely into the baroque-flavoured “Mood for a Day”—Chris Squire’s thundering bass solo (“The Fish”), and the always rousing encore, “Roundabout”.

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