Fragile, At The Robin, Dudley, Nov 2nd, 2001
By Steve Lacey, Mike Weatherhead & Malcolm Jeffrey
Fragile returned to Dudley which is one of a select few venues that are like "playing at home" for them. In fact this was the fifth time now that the band had played there. Were the regulars getting tired of hearing Fragile? We've had reviews from Steve Lacey, Mike Weatherhead and Malcolm Jeffrey who gave us their thoughts and opinions on the show . . .
Fragile Partying At The Robin back in 1999!
It has been nearly 12 months since i first saw Fragile, also at The Robin, Dudley. If you have looked back at the reviews for the gig dated 14/10/00, you will be aware of my comments then and can compare to now. I felt i was full of praise where it was due, but also had a few of what i call, constructive criticisms to which i hope created a constructive response, to hopefully improve the band from a YesFan's opinion of what i already saw on one viewing, as being the most talented and dedicated tribute band in the UK. I have followed the band via their website since then and was looking forward to returning to The Robin for a repeat viewing.
I am not going to review all the tracks here, just a few comments on what i felt were improvements and highlights, to what i already know is a great accomplished night of Yes music.
I will state that due to unforseen circumstances, i had to leave in the middle of the medley. so anything after this point will hopefully be covered by others. The first of many major improvements was highlighted in ISAGP(Your Move), the vocals were spot on, harmonies were tight and clear, probably due to the brilliant sound quaility of the show compared to last year, and i felt benefitted from much more contribution from Tom and Robert, not only for this song. but all night.
In my first review i suggested that the band should try 'South side of the sky', mainly as 'Yes' had never done it live and it being one of the their fans favorite songs from the early days, it was well worth an airing. Well i'm sure i don't take the glory here, as i cannot believe the band had not thought of it before i did, but brownie points or what!!. This track was simply awesome!!. performed note for note, special praise for Gonzalo, who nailed the middle section piano work. Again the vocals were unbelievable. I nearly left after this one, as i felt i had had my monies worth!!!. Side Note, on Jon Andersons's new website he is asked the question why 'Yes' do not play this track live, he states that they have tried it in rehearsal on most tours, but it never seems to work as a live song!!. Jon, all i can say is, when your in England for the tour later this year, get to see Fragile, you will change your mind instantly. It works, It definitely works!!!!.
Gonzalo - nailed South Side's Middle Section
Robert's solo spot was the 'Clap', a faultless performance of this real crowd pleaser, i felt that he played it effortlessly, well within himself, and it truly showed what an accomplished guitar player he is in all his forms.
Wonderous Stories also deserves a mention, the keyboard work, vocals and harmonies gave it a real value in the setlist, which again, had a nice blend of old & new tracks with most of the favorites, produced with real technical ability and enthusiasm. My only down comment would be 'And You and I', it seemed to be performed much too fast, especially the instrumental sections, whether this was planned or whether it was a timing thing i'm not sure, but it just seemed to get faster and faster unitil they almost had no way of stopping. however this was just my view, from the rest of the audience appreciation at the end of the track, it seemed to get the biggest reception, but then it is probably Yes' favorite and most difficult songs to replicate.
I must compliment Steve and the boys for a great show and certainly a much improved performance, not just in the playing of it, but the presenting of it, you could tell they now have the confidence that they are not a side show to Yes, but a real force emulating Yes music to what maybe sceptic Yesfans, but i feel are now becoming real Fragile fans. I enjoyed the gentle banter between songs and it all made for a most enjoyable night, knowing that the crowd were with them all the way. So, bring on the stage sets, backcloths, lights, lasers, effects etc, it will all be accepted and appreciated, to help deliver the uniqueness of the Yes show.
I'll end this review my saying, that i felt the audience who attended The Robin, were not just Yes fans intrigued, they are now Fragile fans being entertained by brilliant musicians who are reproducing what i feel are some of the best peices of music ever written, they are timeless and hopefully will be played well into the future for not only us, but our children to appreciate, (ps. i wanted to take my 12 Year old son, but he was not allowed in, he listens to Yes, and would love to see Fragile, perhaps at another venue maybe). Until next time....
What can I say which hasn't been said in many previous reviews? These guys just get better and better every time I see them. They not only reproduce YES' complex music extremely accurately, but also relish being able to do so to such a high standard. They also all have fun, which is what YES music should be all about. None more so tonight than Tom, who never stopped egging on the audience and encouraging them to join in. He was even allowed to indulge himself in 'Smoke on the Water' during the finale.
Mitch - Inspiration?
I don't know if it's the fact that the band feels comfortable at the Robin, but they certainly seemed relaxed tonight, and confident enough to add some small improvisations into the classics they were reproducing. Steve's vocals sound richer and fuller each time I see them. Tom's solid guitar work is the perfect foil for Rob's wonderful solo's and almost note perfect reproduction of whichever complex song is being played. (And believe me they are ALL complex!). Mitch's ever solid drumming and wonderful backing vocals must be an inspiration to the rest of the band, the drum solo tonight was just fantastic. Jon's growling Rickenbacker never sounded better than tonight, 'Heart of the Sunrise' was stupendous. As I have said in previous reviews, it is almost impossible to pick out individual members for special mention, as they are all so accomplished. However, I must make special mention for Gonzalo's performance tonight. His keyboard playing was truly wonderful, one guy standing by me described it as 'inspirational', and he was probably understating the fact. If Rick and Igor had both been on stage, I'm not sure that they could have produced such an atmospheric performance.
Previous reviews have gone through the set list in detail, but I must still pick out 'South Side of the Sky' for special mention, it was awesome. As Steve said, why don't YES play such a wonderful song more often? A few moans greeted the fact that the YES medley would be dropped for the tour next year. Although I believe this will free up some time for even more classics to be added to the set.
One of the great things about Fragile is their willingness to come out and talk to any fans that hang around after the gig. On a personal note I'd like to thank the entire band for their genuine concern for my sick daughter, Pippa. She is progressing well and will be home very soon. (Gonzales - your Spanish doctors and nurses are wonderful!).
As many other reviewers, and I have stated many times. If you are a YES fan and are still sceptical about seeing FRAGILE, please, please, please put any doubts aside and get out to see this simply brilliant band.
Thanks again guys for an excellent night. I really hope to see you again before the end of the year. I never did get chance to ask what you thought about 'Magnification'.
The sound of fireworks echoes in the night air as Bob and I set off to see Fragile for the fourth time at the Robin Hood. pre-gig beer is safely purchased and when we hit the concert room, the place is already getting full maybe 300 are already in, which will later swell to 400 Brierley Hill is giving Fragile our traditional welcome then. as normal, there are lots of prog rock / Yes tour t-shirts in evidence, but this time I notice more than a few Fragile ones too back in June, when Fragile last played here, a "No Anoraks" sign had been jokily posted below the "Band Members Only" sign on the dressing room door, but I am disappointed to see its not there tonight however, perched atop the cabs/amps stack by the side of Mitchs drumkit, there is a polystyrene head, à la "The Yes Album" cover most of the people in the room would have got the joke immediately.
ah ! Mr Stravinskys "Firebird Suite" theme kicks off over the PA and once again I can feel happy anticipation as things are correctly in place once more : in the darkness, swimming their way through stage smoke, the instrumental members of Fragile assume their places Tom gives us a hearty thumbs up as he crosses the stage, and the demonic Jon Bastable is sporting a fine, entirely Yessish palm-trees-in-the-sunset effect shirt. they kick off promptly with "Talk"s "Endless Dream" and it sounds good, tight and balanced, continuing straight into a fine, well-rehearsed "Siberian Khatru", with Steve Carney rushing enthusiastically on stage at the start for his cue : hes dressed in some very comfy-looking white muslin pyjamas, whose shirt is disturbingly translucent enough to hint at darker areas beneath which Jon Anderson has never been racey enough to hint about ! still, "Khatru" is great, with Robert Illes magnificent as ever (despite a reported cold), some nice supporting chordwork from Tommo and Jon Bastable nailing Squires great bassline again. weve hardly had time to applaud at the end when Fragile bost straight into "Ive Seen All Good People" throughout, Gonzalo the Noo-noo can be seen singing happily along although he isnt even miked up ! and the song as a whole is as well performed as Ive ever heard Yes give us.
at the end, the Robin faithful warmly show their appreciation and Steve says hi to us all, once more announcing "The Robin" as Fragiles "spiritual home" : in reference to Yes soon-to-kick-off tour, he tells us that they have brought no symphony orchestra this time and a cheerful voice from the back heckles "cheapskate !" Tom asks one of his mates in the room to shout him up a pint of Stella, so HEs no cheapskate then : mind you, hes a brave man starting the next one dry as Steve introduces "South Side Of The Sky" however, Fragile effortlessly dispatch this song with Mitch easily the master of the time changes, Gonzalos keys sounding spot on and some frankly super harmonies in the middle slow section once again, Roberts command of Steve Howes style is pivotal in getting it all sounding right. next, while theyre on a roll, were treated to the heftily tricky "Heart Of The Sunrise", which once more is sung and played more or less bang on, no mean feat given the fiendish time changes, intricate melody lines and keys required to sing in. these efforts are thoroughly applauded and Fragile look justifiably proud : I turn to Bob and remark that we both remember the "Old Days" when Fragile used to complain earnestly about "HOTS"s degree of difficulty : those days are clearly gone now though !
I hit the bar for the next round, and while Im ordering, the familiar opening notes of "The Clap" come from the stage I used to be able to play this once (hah after a fashion) and Robert the Mad Magyar has a damn top try at it : all on his fixed position acoustic too, which can only make it loads harder ! then Fragile return to perform "Perpetual Change" for us, with a lovely Howey-like slow blues bit in the middle from Mr Illes and, at the point where the studio version plays two different riffs in the stereo split, Fragile accomplish a very tidy solution with Gonzalo and Tom doing the fast riff, while the rest return to the slow theme : once again, damn hard to do and requiring great concentration on all of their parts. Im sure that behind the overlapping, Mitch was somehow trying to do bits of both drum patterns too, which is very Brufordesque, to say the least !
next up is Fragiles own "Theme", still somehow very Yes-sounding and fine, followed by the Top-Of-The-Pops-mungous "Wonderous Stories". having thus used the slower, not-so-tricky "Stories" to have a breather, they then erupt into "90125"s "Cinema", which still sounds damned authentic and needs them all to keep on their toes music-wise : this leads straight into a classic and accurate "And You And I", with Toms reinforcing of the sound noticeably necessary, and Jons almost casual reproduction of Chris Squires timeless basslines and Steves effortless, atmospheric singing weaving the whole into a fine rendition of this Yes classic. finally, we are treated to maybe a last hearing of Fragiles "Yes Medley". for an earlier review I wrote a full and accurate "Long Distance Runaround" and its traditional following of "The Fish", going straight into the epic battle bit of "The Gates Of Delirium" and a super Steve Carney reading of "Soon", and continuing with arranged tunes from "Six Wives" and "Arthur" on Gonzalos keyboards. this leads neatly into an accurately-reproduced section from "Hearts", an excerpt from "Topographic Oceans" ("Revealing Science Of God" ?) from Gonzalo, and a tight and well-observed battle-bit-from-"Ritual" drum solo from Mitch, which concludes with a full, joyous version of "Yours Is No Disgrace"
and I cant add to that. before "Disgrace", however, Mitch tells us that he will be glad to be relieved from playing the "Ritual" drum-fight when Fragile change their set soon ! luckily for him, theyre off after "Disgrace" for a well-earned towel down while the rest of us applaud enthusiastically and cry out for more Yes music, please !
Tom and his "Magnificent Wurm"
Fragile duly return for a super, bouyant "Starship Trooper", each Fragile member really knuckling down to this one, and with Tom front and centre, very much the rock-god and crowd-pleaser on the final section : this affords me a golden opportunity to be able to state that Toms Würm was magnificent ! finally, the band have their by now traditional fun introducing each other with prog rock snippets from their own record collections : Thick As A Brick, Comfortably Numb, Karn Eval 9, Whole Lotta Love etc. I have my chequebook in my pocket as Robert begins his hommage to Ian Anderson, and on an impulse I realise its brick-shaped in silhouette : sorry, Robert it was me what held it up and made you laugh anyway, following the reprise of "Trooper" theyre off and the lights come up, and its time to hit the taxi home.
which all leads me to think what ARE the wonderful Fragile going to hit us with when they air the new set ? certainly, 400 people from Brierley Bonk will be eager to find out ! see you down the front at the next one, chums.
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