Symphonic Live

Yes

Symphonic Live from Yes first became available as a 2002 DVD release. It was later released as a double CD, 14-song set. Now it comes to glorious Blu-ray. Featuring the core quartet of Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Chris Squire and Alan White (along with non-member Tom Brislin on keyboards) and the auspicious European Festival Orchestra, Yes hitr the road behind their 2001 studio album Magnification, playing in Amsterdam along the way. With such a colorful orchestra in an equally colorful city, it must have seemed only fitting the show be filmed and released.

After an opening "Overture" from the orchestra, we are taken into "Close To The Edge," and though it's always great hearing this Yes classic, other than an amazing vocal turn from Anderson, this first Yes/Orchestra mix isn't all that special. At times, the orchestra actually drags a bit except in some sections. "Long Distance Runaround" follows with a nice opening that really doesn't develop beyond the usual arrangement, though it features some spot-on perfect Squire moments.

When it comes to the songs from Magnification, Howe really steps it up on "Don't Go." The orchestral collaboration really comes together on "In The Presence Of." It's everything you want from a Yes orchestral mix - Anderson's vocals leading it all and White playing odd time signatures that never get cluttered. He really is a great drummer (as if anyone ever doubted).

A rare performance of the 1976 epic "Gates Of Delirium" is followed by a Steve Howe guitar solo. Again, this is where the orchestra shines, never competing with Yes, but never taking a back seat either. You can understand why Anderson sounds so good; he is backed up by a wall of sound unlike any he's used to live, especially for a song as dramatic as "Gates." All those crashing spikes, the river of tension, the 'war' that we've always imagined in this classic from Relayer are brought out under Wilhelm Keitel's baton. "In The Presence Of" and "Gates Of Delirium" are reason enough alone to own this Blu-ray.

"Starship Trooper" finds Anderson in great form, along with some sparkling guitar work from Howe. Both he and White are high up in the mix on these recordings, while the orchestra is more muted. "Magnification" is next, featuring some splendid Howe slide work. "And You and I" has Anderson's soaring vocals and the orchestra coming in at the halfway mark - the brass is especially noticeable - and the first real expressive solo from Brislin.

"Ritual," like "Gates," is another one that works well with the orchestra, and features yet again another blistering performance from White. At nearly 30 minutes, this is the centerpiece of the disc and one of the standout tracks on Symphonic Live. The set ends with "I've Seen All Good People," "Owner Of A Lonely Heart" and "Roundabout." Anderson floats on "People," while "Heart" kind of lies flat, sorry to say, though Howe gives it his best, with maybe the most rockin' playing on these two discs. "Roundabout" has Anderson sounding like it's 1973 and Yessongs is playing at midnight.

The Blu-ray, as well as the previously released DVD, includes two bonus features. There's the Dreamtime documentary, which chronicles Yes in the studio, recording Magnification, and preparing for the subsequent tour. Band interviews, a glimpse into their then-new website, which leads to interviews with fans - these elements are also part of the documentary. A music video for the lone Magnification single "Don't Go" - essentially a film collage of Yes in concert - rounds out the selection of extras.

As a whole, when Symphonic Live is good, it is very good, with the orchestra complementing the band on songs like "In The Presence Of," "Gates of Delirium" and "Ritual." Some may argue this period was the group's last great stab at doing something truly different and challenging by recording and touring with an orchestra. Chances are, Yes will never play many of these songs or veer off into the ozone like this ever again.

~ Ralph Greco, Jr. and Shawn Perry

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