Judge Victor Valdivia isn't ashamed of his prog-rock past. Denim jackets and bell bottoms will come back.
Our reviews of Yes (published November 8th, 2005), Yes: Keys To Ascension (published December 24th, 2009), Yes: Yesspeak (published February 19th, 2004), Yes: Symphonic Live (Blu-ray) (published October 8th, 2011), and Yes: Yesspeak (published June 11th, 2011) are also available.
See them like you've never seen them before!
Well, not exactly. If you bought the 2003 DVD Yesspeak, you actually have seen this concert footage before. The difference is that Yesspeak consisted of interviews with excerpts from a couple of performances edited in. This two-disc set contains those performances in their entirety, filmed at concerts in England, at Birmingham on July 3, 2003, and at Glastonbury Festival June 29, 2003. Here are the set lists on Yes: The New Directors Cut.
I: Cord of Life
I: Intro to Catherine of Aragon
I: Your Move
I: Cord of Life
I: Your Move
There are still a few of the interview clips seen in Yesspeak here as well, but they are inserted between songs instead of interrupting them. Completely excised is Roger Daltrey's narration and much of the history of the band. This is instead a concert DVD with a few interviews for color, rather than an attempt at a documentary.
So is it successful? To a degree. Certainly, this is one of the better of Yes' recent concert recordings. Compared to a lackluster recording like Live at the House of Blues, Yes actually gives a more energetic performance than many would expect. This is the lineup of Yes that most fans consider classic: singer Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, bassist Chris Squire, drummer Alan White, and keyboardist Rick Wakeman, who has joined and left the band some three times over their forty-year history (hardcore fans might plump for the return of original drummer Bill Bruford, but that's probably out of the question). The set list is taken from Yes's '70s heyday, but there are a few recent songs added for good measure. In fact, it's significant that some of the stronger performances on the set, especially "Magnification" and "In the Presence Of," are from Yes's last studio album, 2001's Magnification, which demonstrates that the band still has some vigor left. As always, the band members' musicianship is top-notch. Yes, after all, has always been renowned (even by their detractors) as a band of technically precise musicians, and there aren't many bum notes or miscues during these shows.
At the same time, there's a lot about this set that makes it hard to recommend unequivocally. For one thing, though the performances have some fire, they're not as consistent as Yes has been in the past. In particular, the band members seem especially bored with old classics like "Roundabout" and "Siberian Khatru," a distinct failure when the shows open and close with those songs. Some of the selections are oddly chosen. "Don't Kill the Whale," hardly a classic (in fact, it's one of the songs most reviled by fans) is included, but not such fan favorites as "Starship Trooper," "Yours Is No Disgrace," or "Going for the One." Moreover, the band does not attempt anything from the '80s, when they came closest to mainstream pop stardom with Top 40 hit songs like "Owner of a Lonely Heart" and "Rhythm of Love." Because those songs were written and recorded by a different lineup of Yes (with guitarist Trevor Rabin instead of Howe), the band refuses to perform them, thus denying fans a chance to hear Yes's most famous songs. Consequently, this concert will likely seem inaccessible to most casual viewers, since Yes's long epics were always more of an acquired taste even during their '70s heyday. Finally, it's also worth noting that the two performances are not of equal quality. Though both are hit-and-miss, the Birmingham concert was filmed at an indoor venue in front of an audience of Yes fans and is generally stronger. The Glastonbury concert, by contrast, was filmed at an outdoor multi-act festival in broad daylight, with an audience that isn't entirely sympathetic. Yes's music depends far too much on atmosphere and mystique to work well in front of a daytime festival crowd. The Glastonbury show winds up with far too many shots of concertgoers fleeing to the food vendors during the longer songs.
The 16:9 anamorphic transfer is quite crisp (maybe too crisp; both Howe and Wakeman look considerably the worse for wear), although there is some artefacting in a couple of spots. Both the Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 surround mixes are loud and clear, and sound identical. There are no extras, but it's hard to imagine what could be needed. Yes: The New Director's Cut will likely please hardcore fans, although it's not the slam-dunk performance it could have been, and it's unlikely even the most devoted fans will watch the Glastonbury performance more than once. Newcomers to Yes's music, however, would do better with one of the DVDs that capture Yes during its '70s peak, like Yessongs or Live at Philadelphia 1979. Yes: The New Director's Cut is ultimately guilty of being only good when it could have been exceptional.
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