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Fragile, At The Spirit of 66, Verviers, April 14th 2001

By Pierre Romainville Translation by Majo Prudent + family and friends.

Fragile's first ever show outside the UK was at The Spirt of 66, and after the hospitality and reception that they received there was very little doubt in anyone's mind that they would return, and soon! In fact it was Easter weekend 2001 and once again Pierre Romainville, stylish writer for Prog-Resiste sent us his thoughts which we have translated into English for readers in the UK.

 
Fragile Thank The Verviers Crowd
 

 
 

You can read Pierre's original review in French and see some more of his great pictures from the night here.

You can see more great pictures from the show on the "A Flower" website too!

 

Fragile's Easter Beano 

 

My fingers are itching to tell you it was fantastic, marvellous…. But I'm going to save a few superlatives for the end of my story, and start at the beginning.

So, once upon a time, on a very grey Easter day in April, all the editorial staff of the magazine 'Prog', decided as one man (well nearly all) to brave the bad weather and make their way to the spiritual centre where, according to the press and the internet, our Easter celebration was to take place. On the programme was something like a resurrection, a resurrection of the music that YES had the incredible inspiration to write…. Well, soon it was going to be some years ago.

I and my colleague Marco wished that we could interview these miraculous archaeologists (for the next issue of Prog-resiste) and although we hadn't made any arrangement Marco had nevertheless taken his recorder along, confident of the legendary hospitality of the progreux (People of prog rock), (in general), and the sense of fair play of Her Majesty's subjects. I must say that they (Fragile) had done me the honour of publishing my previous review on their very handsome Internet site; www.yestribute.com, and included my photos, they were even kind enough to translate my words into English! In short, we were confident, but to have been welcomed as we were…. Hats off to you gentlemen, and our thanks to you for your kindness in making yourself available. Well, less that an hour before the show, there they were, 5 of them, sitting in a circle, holding an instructive and friendly conversation with us, the contents of which, (all you need do is take out a subscription), we must reserve for Prog-Resiste.

Six Loonies 

Of course, most of those who attended last November were there in the room, but there were also others attracted by what we had told them, even if they were a bit sceptical about the level of quality we had promised. Tut, tut, as if I've ever exaggerated! It's true isn't it? FRAGILE is the only tribute band listed as doing YES music. 'Why?' you ask. Because YES are still going? Because Anderson's voice is unique? You want my opinion? No? I'm going to give it anyway; It's because it is music that is technically incredibly complex, at both individual and group level. How you get 6 loonies sufficiently virtuoso to manage it, and mad enough to do it in their spare time, is simply miraculous. That isn't too strong a word. So, let's profit from this miracle, after all it is everybody's Easter.

A quick glance around: Mitch still has his red Pearl Kit, Jon, his white Rickenbacker with 'Chris Squire' carved on it (will we find out why?), Tom with his black Stratocaster, Gonzalo, his Korg synthesiser and Yamaha piano, Robert his black Stratocaster and red Gibson Les Paul. But, contrary to last time, (and I forgot to ask him why), he used practically nothing but his Gibson this time, whose 'rounder' and 'fuller' sound is more to my taste, so I'm not complaining. On a stand, (no doubt an idea borrowed from Steve Howe), stands a 6-string acoustic guitar that he can turn to without even letting go of his Gibson. OK, it's not very elegant, but it works.

 

The red Gibson . . .

. . . and the Chris Squire bass

 

 

Mitch in full swing . . .

. . . and the amazing Steve Carney

 

Flying Rhythm 

Then comes the same classical-pompous introduction again, allowing the musicians to settle in (although they would have had the time ten times over), before they really get going. Straight into a new piece, and what's more, a recent one, because it's taken from Talk in 1994: 'Endless Dream', well, just the introduction, because quite soon, what do we hear? A big Howean riff that you can spot among thousands (chikka chikka chakk), a heavy bass that goes 'Miii' then 'Si Mi Laa' (!?) and everything based on a rhythm that no one can work out - quite normal, it's 'Siberian Khatru' with its crazy introduction in 15/8!! A great bravura piece with, in the middle, to complicate things, a chorus of breathtaking beauty. 9 minutes of absolute bliss. A keyboard break, a bottleneck solo, a heavy bass line, which you would say was sometimes playing another number, and the flying rhythm that was Bruford's secret. Everything that YES thought characteristic at the time seems to be brought together in this number. Give me pleasure, play 'Siberian Khatru', it's on 'Close to the Edge' (1972). Just thinking of it again gives me a tingle, I can tell you. Two observations come at once; the importance of Mitch's part, (he's the drummer), in the backing vocals; to do that whilst drumming borders on miraculous, And also, and perhaps even more important, the sound of the bass guitar. In November I had been astonished by the relative 'softness' of Jon Bastable's Rickenbacker, in comparison to the 'Stoiiinnng' that Squire could produce. Jon told me to attribute that to the amplifier, not his usual one, which is too large to leave his island, (I love that bit-Mitch). This evening, as if by magic, I rediscovered this sound, so characteristic in the music of YES. Super. A question of tuning, no doubt, unless it's Francis's new baffles…?? Can I criticise then? 'All Good People' next, a somewhat repetitive ritornello from the 'YES Album', it doesn't lower the tension, on the contrary, it has the advantage of allowing a greater part of the audience to join in, including me. (Sorry Fred and Claude who were beside me). Next, 2 pieces from 'Fragile' (1971); 'South Side of the Sky', a straight rock number, new to their repertoire, punctuated precisely by a passage on the piano, a sort of salute to Gonzalo, always jovial and laughing, always searching out the collusive eye of someone in the audience with whom to share his good humour, decidedly communicative. Dear Gonzalo, he could almost make us believe it is easy to play Wakeman! Then 'Heart of the Sunrise', a real challenge for a guitarist, This piece is WOW! Even those who were expecting it were knocked over. It is indisputably better than last time, and Robert (the guitarist) isn't there for nothing. He seems more at ease, relaxed. The stage belongs to him now and he gives us a very demonstrative 'The Clap' in regard to his technical qualities. An acoustic guitar doesn't let you get away with anything, we know. He's good, very good.

"the inimitable chewing motion of a snorting camel"

After 'Perpetual Change', (another new number), here they are announcing a little composition of their own thanks to a collaboration between Gonzalo and Robert. Then, something unheard of. Metamorphosis as they used to say in Goldorak, here is our Robert turning himself instantly into Andy Latimer. A sumptuous melody from his Gibson that Tom Sherpenzeel wouldn't disown, floating on aerial keyboards, and there we are, Camel are in the room. Robert even tries (very naturally) to imitate the grimace, and the contortions of the jaw without of course matching the inimitable chewing motion of a snorting camel (!), that Latimer is capable of. Even so….. not bad guys, carry on.

We knew 'Owner of a Lonely Heart' would be barely recognisable, but even so. It's still a shock to hear it in this 'Claptonesque' version with the influences of reggae and J.J. Cale mixed in. Robert wasn't there for nothing in this very original arrangement. I let myself say 'Bravo'. I'll say it again and sign it; I prefer this version to the one on '90125' (which, as you may gather is not my favourite YES album). The first set ends with another new number, (well new for Fragile); Wondrous Stories'. This item has the double advantage of including a melody of timeless beauty, and it also leads into 'Awaken' on 'Going for the one'. In other words, I heard this piece when it came out in 1977.

 

"Disconcerting at times" 

Let's use the interval to talk about the sound. I am always concerned so close to the stage and in front of the guitar amplifier, that I don't overlook the keyboards that only support the sound balance. No problem today! Even where I was (In Rob's shoe laces), the mixing couldn't be faulted.

The second half started with 'Cinema', before continuing with a long medley (with extracts form Gates and Tales …) which concluded with 'Gates of Delirium' from 'Relayer', and other marvellous numbers, but above all, that historic moment when Steve Carney, (Jon Anderson rein-Carney-ated), (I know, I've already made that joke), and Gonzalo gave us 'Soon'. Lucky I had my handkerchief. And the goosebumps on the arms of some of those around me weren't due to the temperature inside 'The Spirit', believe me, eh Marco? Steve's presentation is astonishing, disconcerting at times. It's no good telling us not to take him for Jon Anderson, it is…………… difficult to explain. Disconcerting eh? But what a voice!

A nice 'Starship Trooper' to end with, but including a brilliant presentation by each musician of his favourite number. Robert gave us 'Thick as a Brick' truer than real, with Gonzalo on the synthesised flute, the latter chose the piano introduction to 'Awaken', Mitch, behind his kit sang us a good part of 'Comfortably Numb' (yes OK, it's Floyd's, isn't it). Led Zep and ELP also appear and Tom gives it all he's got. Definitely these people have, what you might call, some 'interesting baggage'.

"Unforgettable Melody" 

Planned encores with 'Roundabout' and 'Endless Dream'. But yes, the dream does have an end, because it's over, Well almost, because some loud 'Bravos' got them to come out one last time to us, and make us tingle with 'The Meeting' an unforgettable melody from 'ABWH'.

This time it really is the end. But as they (Fragile) are already at the bar 2 minutes after the end of the gig, I take the opportunity to ask one last existentialist question; 'Why not Awaken?' (Marco was inconsolable). Gonzalo and Jon say they are ready but Mitch pulls a face; 'too complicated to do the vocals and the drumming at the same time'. However, from the smile of understanding from the other two, my impression is 'We'll get there, next time, for sure'.

What more can I tell you? That Francis nearly suffocated me squeezing me in his arms? No, not interesting. That we all seemed pretty exhausted? Not interesting either. Well anyhow, as Gilles (backline technician) said to the musicians as they put away their instruments; 'Be careful, it's Fragile.' Well I must say it's very late, I'd better stop.

By the way, did I tell you it was fantastic and marvellous??? I did, didn't I?

Translation by Majo Prudent + family and friends. Merci Beaucoup.

English context and comments by Mitch.

 

Pierre Romainville

 

The humur of Gonzalo . . .

. . . and the Zep of Tom Dawe!

 
 
 

You can read Pierre's original review in French and see some more of his great pictures from the night here.

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