After the huge success of their US tour in 2019, Yes has just released The Royal Affair Tour: Live From Las Vegas. The album comes in three formats: a CD digi-pack with a 12-page booklet, as a double LP with a gatefold cover and a large format book, and, of course, also digital.
Most Yes concerts are special events for the legion of fans and The Royal Affair Tour was no exception, a celebration of the best of British progressive music. Guests on the tour included Asia (with Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes and a special appearance by Steve Howe), John Lodge from The Moody Blues, and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy with Arthur Brown. The 26-date tour was critically acclaimed by the international press and fans alike.
The cover design is once again from Roger Dean, whose artwork is synonymous with the iconic Yes bubble logo and the band’s most beloved album covers. Brothers Doug and Glenn Gottlieb are, as always, responsible for photos and the design of the booklet. The live set, featured on the new album, was recorded at the Hard Rock Hotel, Las Vegas, on 26th July 2019, with Billy Sherwood responsible for mixing.
For obvious reasons, the series of Yes shows in Europe 2020 had to be cancelled: the evil corona virus threw a spanner in the works. Somewhat unfortunate for me and many other Yes fans, especially because the band would provide a first – at least for fans in the Netherlands – playing songs from the extremely underrated Relayer from 1974. The tour promoting this aforementioned album never reached our country. Although in the end it would only turn out to be the one song, which happened to be highlight of the original album, the more than twenty-minute-long The Gates of Delirium, although the song didn’t make the cut in the final choice of songs for the new live album. An initial disappointment, before I’ve even heard any of the music. Is there nothing left in what remains on the album? But of course, Yes stands for quality, both in the studio and on stage and that is no different here. The lack of material from Relayer detracts somewhat, but what remains is a fair reflection of the band’s music over the years.
The show contains many classic songs from the period 1970 to 1980. The set starts with a rousing version of No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed, the cover of Richie Havens’ song from Yes’ second album, Time and A Word (1970). Steve Howe puts his own stamp on this song, originally played by Peter Banks, Jon Davison’s vocals are spot on: Jon Anderson sang an octave lower at the time and so does he. Ironically, none of the current line-up played on the original album. Tempus Fugit from Drama (1980) gets a strange percussion intro, before Howe’s recognisable metallic guitar tones fly by. Excellent bass from Sherwood and ditto harmony vocals from the latter and singer Davison. Straight on to Going For the One with Howe’s steel guitar, and just a bit too high pitched vocals from Davison. I’ve Seen All Good People is one of those songs that has been on the set list for decades, playing something else for a change would be rather nice. The exuberant audience in the Nevada gambling town noticeably begs to differ. The same response from the crowd applies to Siberian Khatru from Close to the Edge, one of those iconic mid-’70s albums.
Onward is a sea of tranquillity at this point in the set, a tribute to composer/bassist Chris Squire. The set includes a rare live performance of Yes’ cover of Paul Simon’s America. Yes has only been playing the eleven-minute rocking song regularly since the US summer tour with Toto in 2015. Moody Blues bassist/singer John Lodge shares vocal duties with Jon Davison on a cover of John Lennon’s Imagine. Most of the song remains true to the original version, Yes treating Lennon’s legacy with due respect. Drummer Alan White (now 71) played on the original studio recording by the legendary ex-Beatle, who would have celebrated his 80th birthday on 9th October this year.
The traditional highlights of the show are two of the most beloved Yes songs, Roundabout and Starship Trooper, for ages almost standard set closers, this time is no different. However, I would personally like to see some change here. But I have to be honest: the renditions are not much inferior to the original, Davison’s vocals and Howe’s guitar rock solid.
A striking number of covers this time, with the exception of the early years, Yes is mainly known for its original songs, in which (almost) all members had a share. With covers from Richie Havens, Paul Simon and John Lennon, the share of non-self-written songs is relatively high. However, it should be noted that the first two in particular are virtually unrecognisable from the originals. With Imagine, the band has stayed closest to the original recording, partly out of respect for the writer, partly out of fear of (harsh) criticism in case the iconic original would be deemed ‘treated unjustly’. In addition to inevitable versions of I’ve Seen All Good People, Starship Trooper and Roundabout, it is especially the pastoral, Chris Squire-penned Onward, Anderson’s Going For the One and the previously mentioned rock version of America that I find most tempting. And, of course, not forgetting Siberian Khatru, true symphonic rock in all its greatness.
In previous reviews I have already made some comments about the multitude of live releases by the British quintet. They are no longer alone in the frequent release of live material: Steve Hackett, Neal Morse and a whole bunch of other prog rock acts have done exactly the same. No objection here: a nice memory for those who were actually there, a reminder for the fans who missed out on it and a nice introduction for anyone who is unfamiliar with the band’s music (do they still exist?), due to the compilation effect. And, last but not least, a nice bit of money for the artists.
Finally, the big question: does The Royal Affair Tour: Live From Las Vegas rank high on Yes’s ever-growing list of live recordings over the decades? Well, I would say a solid mid-table position, mainly based on the presence of Tempus Fugit, Onward, Going For the One and America. Points deducted for the absence of The Gates of Delirium. Next time, some material from Relayer please, my personal favorite To Be Over should certainly be included. To be continued, undoubtedly.
At the time, I closed my review of the YES 50 Live, with the rhetorical question: Wanna bet the next live album is already in the works? Easy money.
01. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed (4:56)
02. Tempus Fugit (6:09)
03. Going For the One (5:28)
04. I’ve Seen All Good People (7:11)
05. Siberian Khatru (10:27)
06. Onward (4:04)
07. America (11:10)
08. Imagine (4:53)
09. Roundabout (9:15)
10. Starship Trooper (11:42)
Total Time – 75:15
Billy Sherwood – Bass, Backing Vocals
Alan White – Drums
Steve Howe – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Geoff Downes – Keyboards
Jon Davison – Lead Vocals
Jay Schellen – Drums
John Lodge – Vocals (track 8)
Record Label: BMG Records
Country of Origin: U.K.
Date of Release: 30th October 2020
– The Royal Affair Tour: Live From Las Vegas (2020)
– From A Page (2019)
– Yes 50 Live (2019)
– Live At Glastonbury Festival 2003 (2019)
– Fly From Here: Return Trip (2018)
– Topographic Drama – Live Across America (2017)
– Like It Is: Yes at the Mesa Arts Center (2015)
– Progeny: Seven Shows from Seventy-Two (2015)
– Like It Is: Yes at the Bristol Hippodrome (2014)
– Heaven and Earth (2014)
– Yes Acoustic [DVD] (2013)
– In the Present – Live From Lyon (2011)
– Fly From Here (2011)
– Live at Montreux 2003 (2007)
– 9012Live [DVD] (2006)
– The Word is Live (2005)
– Songs From Tsongas [DVD] (2005)
– The Ultimate Yes – 35th Anniversary Collection (2004)
– In A Word: Yes (1969- ) (2002)
– Symphonic Live [DVD] (2002)
– Magnification (2001)
– Keystudio (2001)
– House of Yes – Live From The House of Blues (2000)
– The Ladder (1999)
– Open Your Eyes (1997)
– Keys To Ascension 2 (1997)
– Keys To Ascension (1996)
– Talk (1994)
– Highlights – The Very Best of Yes (1993)
– Yesstory (1993)
– Yesyears (1991)
– Union (1991)
– Big Generator (1987)
– 9012Live: The Solos (1985)
– 90125 (1983)
– Classic Yes (1981)
– Yesshows (1980)
– Drama (1980)
– Tormato (1978)
– Going For the One (1977)
– Yesterdays (1974)
– Relayer (1974)
– Tales From Topographic Oceans (1973)
– Yessongs (1973)
– Close to the Edge (1972)
– Fragile (1972)
– The Yes Album (1971)
– Time and A Word (1970)
– Yes (1969)