Filmed during Yes’ 35th Anniversary World Tour in 2003, Yes – The New Director’s Cut is a two-DVD set, compiling two entire concerts (N.I.A. Birmingham and Glastonbury Festival) along with band commentary, backstage footage and the like. Featured is the “classic” lineup of vocalist Jon Anderson, bassist Chris Squier, guitarist Steve Howe, keyboardist Rick Wakeman and drummer Alan White. As Howe says in the DVD, this was the most durable lineup, musically and personally. And it’s the one that most fans associate with the band’s “classic” ‘70’s period.
The set list is geared toward the Yes fan, with favorites such as “Siberian Khatru,” “South Side Of The Sky,” “And You And I” and “Heart Of The Sunrise” standing proudly along other gems including “Don’t Kill The Whale,” from the oft-overlooked Tormato album – the band’s last with Rick Wakeman for nearly 20 years; the title track and the glorious “In The Presence Of,” from 2001’s criminally overlooked Magnification album; a revisiting of Jon Anderson’s “We Have Heaven,” from Fragile; and a fantastic Steve Howe solo guitar interpretation of “To Be Over,” from 1974’s Relayer.
I think most would agree that Yes’ music is most effective when paired with visuals, whether lights, fog, lasers, or a revolving stage. The Birmingham stage set is modest, but still helps to convey the mystical quality of the band’s epics such as “Awaken” and “And You And I.” As well, the sound is excellent. Squier’s harmony singing on “South Side Of The Sky” is stellar, and his playing reminds us why he’s such a respected and influential bassist. In fact, Squier seems totally pumped to be out there, rocking back and forth throughout the entire set. An added treat is a back-and-forth guitar and keyboard “battle” between Howe and Wakeman. It’s great to hear Wakeman bring forth the analog sounds of the mini-Moog – a sound that was burned in my head decades ago – again in the 21st century.
The Glastonbury set, by contrast, finds the band playing outdoors in the middle of the day. It’s a spirited set, but just doesn’t have the impact of the Birmingham show. Still, there’s more than enough great footage and music from Birmingham to make this worth the purchase.
Watching this DVD brought back many great memories – memories of hearing Yes for the first time back in the mid-70s when my best friend borrowed his older brother’s Yessongs album, a sprawling triple-LP set with the incomparable album art of Roger Dean; going to my first Yes show ever and seeing Kansas’ violinist Robby Steinhardt sitting right behind me; and the countless nights that I fell asleep with headphones on as Tales From Topographic Oceans played in my mind.
The influence and importance of Yes on progressive rock is incalculable, and this collection serves only to drive this point home.