DVD Review: Yes – Songs From Tsongas: The 35th Anniversary Concert

DVD Review: Yes – Songs From Tsongas: The 35th Anniversary Concert
Eagle Rock Entertainment
All Access Rating: A-

Yes - Songs From Tsongas:
The 35th Anniversary Concert
It does the heart good to see Jon Anderson and the rest of Yes so happy together, especially in light of the bitter divorce to come in 2008.

Four years earlier, there were no signs of bad blood between the two sides when the cosmic progressive-rock voyageurs' classic lineup traveled through the past at the Tsongas Arena in Lowell, Massachusetts, and closed out their 35th anniversary reunion tour.

Adding to the slew of Yes live releases over the years, an effervescent and exhilarating special edition two-disc DVD set containing an expertly filmed version of that blissful virtuoso performance, as well as a separate 70 minutes of live footage from a rainy night of Yes playing at the Estival in Lugano, Switzerland, is out now, released by Eagle Rock Entertainment.

The two stagings couldn't have been more different, the spartan set-up at Lugano a sharp contrast to the vivid, trippy spectacle of colored lights and alien, amorphous scenery – dreamed up by the one and only Roger Dean – that surrounded Yes at Tsongas, a joyous occasion highlighted by Anderson unabashedly running out into the crowd to belt out a stirring rendition of "Rhythm of Love" that's a veritable flood of silvery synthesizers, harmonized vocals, bubbling bass and sonic exuberance bursting forth.

Shooting the band from a variety of angles and smoothly pulling in tight for unobtrusive close-ups, the camera work is well-organized and clever, capturing the chameleon-like complexity and power of Yes as a whole and allowing individuals to shine on their own. Rick Wakeman's piano practically dances during his solo turn on "The Meeting," and Steve Howe deftly works out "Second Initial," his chance to go it alone, as Howe jumps between country, folk and rock genres like a world-class gymnast throughout, with Anderson's ageless vocal panache, Alan White's drumming is on point and Chris Squire's bass rambles on with precision and grace.

And Yes does justice to its legacy of innovative musicianship and compositional intrigue, gracefully navigating all the enigmatic time changes, unfolding drama, expansiveness and shifting melodic pathways of favorites such as "Your Move/All Good People," "Going for the One," "Starship Trooper," "And You And I" and a stunning version of "South Side of the Sky" – among others – with skillful finesse, a magical imagination and warm emotion.

Making the Tsongas performance even more special is a seven-song acoustic segment, where the quintet gathers in a close sitting, joking and smiling as they dive into winsome, charming readings of "Long Distance Runaround," "Owner of a Lonely Heart," "Time Is Time" and "Wondrous Stories" with the easy nature of old friends in the throes of strong drink and nostalgia. Even the shuffling blues treatment they give to "Roundabout" steps lively, and when a laughing Anderson proclaims he can't remember the words to "This Is Time," the gentle ribbing he gets from his comrades is delivered with good humor.

Out in the wet streets of Lugano, Yes runs through a condensed version of the Tsongas set, their energetic treatments of "Long Distance Runaround," "Roundabout," "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and a rollicking "Going For the One" ringing out in the rain. Shot in a more basic fashion, the show, nonetheless, is just as transcendent as Tsongas, if a bit shorter in duration. For Yes fans, it doesn't get much better than this.
– Peter Lindblad

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