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Fragile, At The Dome, Whitley Bay, October 21st 2000

By Ivan Fraser (editor, The Truth Campaign Magazine)

Whitley Bay represented another long trek for Fragile but who could resist the unique charms of the Dome? A rock venue in a listed building! The following day Ivan sent us a note and kindly volunteered to share his experiences of the night with us and here they are!

 

 
 

"An almost sacred spot in one's psyche"

It was, admittedly, with a certain sense of trepidation that I and my partner, Shona, went to The Dome in Whitley Bay to see Fragile. But only in the sense that it was difficult to imagine how any tribute band could possibly emulate the unique sound and live performing ability of Yes.

After all, one's favourite band, whoever they may be, holds an almost sacred spot in one's psyche. And Yes fans, as much if not more than anyone else, are an extremely discerning and critical lot, when it comes to music, in my experience.

Yes is, and has always been special. Pushing away the conventional boundaries between musical styles in their recorded compositions. Always putting together music of the highest calibre and musical integrity. Always exploring a positive and spiritual approach to life, which is personally uplifting and energising.

But it is their ability to reproduce this, at the same supreme standard, live on every occasion which sets Yes aside from other top class recording artists of their era and ilk. In fact, it is in the live situation that Yes music takes on an added dimension; a sublime and spiritual connection with the audience which magnifies throughout the set to thrill and move. No band has ever thrilled me more than Yes live.

So Fragile could not have picked a more difficult band to emulate. They were going to have to go some to impress me.

Despite the slight apprehension as to whether they would cut the mustard or not, we were still very much looking forward to an evening in the company of our favourite music - if not our favourite band.

"All Doubts Faded"

The Dome was as full as I've seen it in my four or five previous visits. It's not a large venue, small enough to be cosy, but not too big to leave anyone in the crowd without a good view of the stage; nobody being more than about 20-25 metres away from the action. It allows one to really connect with the performance and the performers and for the band to feel and flow with the vibes coming from the crowd.

The band arrived on stage late - around 21.40, and to be honest it was just a relief to be saved from the Genesis album which had been droning on for an hour. So when the Firebird Suite kicked off and the band assembled, the sense of excitement and anticipation grew within me.

When a remarkable Jon Anderson (70's style) look alike took to the stage, I thought: 'Boy, are this band accurate!' But he promptly placed himself behind the keyboards as the rest picked up their instruments.

Then bang. We were straight into Cinema. A better rendition I have yet to hear. Solid, driving and faithful to the dynamics of the original. And I could tell we were in for something special.

With Siberian Khatru to follow this, all doubts faded. These guys could play! They were tight. And they could reproduce with stunning accuracy the genuine unique sound of Yes; shifting from song to song with ease; maintaining faithfulness to the very feel of the great band itself. We immediately relaxed into the gig, confident that Fragile were the genuine article.

This is a talented bunch of musicians: technically able to reproduce the epic splendour we have come to expect from Yes. Each musician played his part to often counterpoint the other, and also to harmonise. The lead guitar, although lacking Steve Howe's edge, played note perfect throughout the songs, making only one or two minor errors in his acoustic solo, which was not really spoiled by this and gave the piece an edge that often makes live music so enjoyable.

The bass was perhaps the most accurate aspect, in terms of sound. The full pounding presence of Chris Squire was certainly evident throughout. Although, it would be pushing it to expect his outstanding backing vocals too. The backing vocals - mainly from the drummer - was nothing special, but sufficed, and certainly not poor by any means. Though I am sure Yes fans will agree that the combination between Jon and Chris is one factor which almost defines what makes the definitive Yes sound - the only thing which prevented the Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe project from attaining the live perfection which is a Yes concert.

The drumming could not have been better. Quite reminiscent of Alan White's rockier style in many regards, rather than Bruford's more jazz-driven style.

 

"The magnificent Awaken "

 Choosing to have both rhythm guitar player and lead player really paid off, giving the band scope to explore all the benefits of a full and dynamic sound of recorded Yes, and the later live Union, Open Your Eyes, twin guitar line-ups. And the entire rhythm section was so tight throughout that only the originals could have bettered it.

Keyboards could easily have been the weakest link had it not been for the technical excellence on display. From first to last, through set melodies, to the odd unexpected individualised counterpoint and background melody, to stunning solo pieces, one could not fault this performance.

Jon's lead vocals are obviously impossible to replicate, owing to his unique style and extended range. However, range was not much of a problem for Steve Carney, and his own more conventional vocal style complemented the Yes music very well, reminding me a little of the vocals on the GTR album of the 80's which featured Steve Howe.

Visually, the image fitted the music. They didn't try to particularly look like Yes, rather donned clothes in a similar fashion, nor did they pretend to actually be them like some tribute bands - which is a real turn-off for me. They were clearly comfortable on stage, and enjoying themselves, which helped to generate a very good and relaxed atmosphere and their own personalities came through, just as do those of the members of Yes. One gets the impression that this is a band who are intimately connected with the spirit of the band and the individuals within it. Carney especially seems to have the spirit of Jon residing within as he moves and dances like Jon, but never forced or overplayed.

The long set ended around midnight, and included all your favourites from across the Yes years up to and including 90125. Focussing mainly on the classic Yes era of the early '70s - Roundabout, Heart Of The Sunrise, Yours Is No Disgrace, I've Seen All Good People, And You and I, Starship Trooper etc. - some tracks were played straight, whilst others were tweaked into medley form. Owner of a Lonely Heart was a pleasant surprise; re-worked into a more sedate style devoid of the riffs, but it worked well nonetheless. The magnificent Awaken never fails to impress live. Time and a Word is one of the most beautiful songs ever written, and here in Fragile's performance, full justice was done. The calmer ballads were perfectly placed to give maximum effect and variation to the colour and dynamics of the set throughout, which never even approached getting boring or predictable.

Personal highlights, however, were ABWH's The Meeting (Shona's particular favourite all-time Yes/ABWH song) and the band's own composition Theme, which was a beautiful Yes-style balladic instrumental, showing just how much talent these boys really have. I very much hope that they will pursue this aspect of their music in future. It will be a much needed and welcome addition to the CD collection for those who favour this style of music, I am sure.

"to capture the very essence and spirit of the band"

The crowd clearly enjoyed every moment. Each song was concluded with enthusiastic applause and cheering. From about half an hour into the set, the dance floor in front of the stage played host to those who somehow managed to get down and boogie to the end of the set, despite the odd time-signatures and counterpoints throughout many of the pieces. The floor gradually became more populated as the set drew on until there was quite a party going on there by the encore. And I can honestly say that before that evening I had never seen anyone dance to a drum solo in my life!

Despite the late hour, the band were rapturously applauded back on stage, when they played snippets from some better known rock classics from Sabbath, Led Zeppelin etc., to round the whole thing off with a superb rendition of Starship Trooper.

Bad points? None really! The lead guitar could have been louder for the first half of the set, but I put this down to the fact that the sound engineer was sat to the side of the stage just behind the guitarist and probably wasn't getting a balanced picture.

All in all, a magnificent night. Not only did Fragile give us all the right notes in all the right places, using the very sound created by Yes themselves, but they seemed to capture the very essence and spirit of the band and the Yes experience too.The only thing better than Fragile's Yes, is Yes themselves.

We went home smiling and enthusing all the way, complete with a copy of the Live album, which we were disappointed to find doesn't include Fragile's self-penned instrumental. But they tell me they may put it on the site on MP3. I can't wait.

Congratulations boys, and thanks for bringing the magic of Yes to our local venue. We look forward to seeing you again soon. Don't wait too long.

 

Ivan Fraser

 


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