Fragile, At Bar Cuba, Macclesfield, Feb 17th 2002
By Matthew Isaacs, Simon Hall & Andy Hall
Untouchable Lease of Life
I first heard about "Fragile" two years ago, when they played some gigs in the Midlands. Their exposure in "Q" Magazines' 'Tribute Band Special' increased awareness and raised their profile. Like Rick Wakeman's concerts at Poynton Baptist Church a few years ago, I could not believe that such a highly acclaimed outfit were visiting a bar just down the road from my local Macdonalds!
Bar Cuba provides a small, intimate but warm setting. The stage was modest yet held quite substantial space in the venue. The band's equipment whetted the appetite for a night of authentic Yes, especially the site of Jon Bastable Jnr's Rickenbacker bass, personally endorsed by none other than Mr Squire himself!
At 9.00am, the strains of The firebird Suite filled the arena, as the group walked on, to commence with a fiery, but disciplined rendition of "Siberian Khatru". It was already apparent regarding band's preference to stay faithful to the original recording. The way they elaborated on the way Yes would have played a song when it was first released breathed a special and untouchable lease of life on these songs as if they were written yesterday.
Exactly the same went for "And You and I". Fragile courageously and successfully chose to perform the "Yessongs" version with the "Apocalypse" reprise motif at the beginning. They somehow managed to conjure up the purity and magic from the original as opposed to the well-oiled rendition the real life Yes have performed for the past 30 years.
Time To Party!
"I've Seen All Good People" was up next and it was time to party, the pure energy and enthusiasm more than made up for the sparse crowd at tonight's gig. Perhaps if the local press and radio had given Fragile half a fair shot, then they would have had heaving room to play to.
Cleary contented with the warmth, and slightly inebriated response, singer Steve Carney introduced "Wonderous Stories" as their 'poptastic' moment. They performed it with all the elegance and grace, the most ardent die hard Yes fan would expect from the real band.
A friend of my mine, Chris yelled out for "Heart of The Sunrise", and they graciously obliged. It was awesome! Their precision was immense to say the least!
You could put all our smiles together and span the River Thames, went Steve announced "Perpetual Change". To say we were singing hysterically was an understatement of the decade. "Close To the Edge"? That was something else altogether.
I assumed at the start that Fragile would to ten minute numbers, and add the odd 90125 moment to keep the younger Rabinites amongst us happy. No way. This was a show of true classic Yes. Their masterful, stunning and sensitive reworking of "Close To The Edge" was drop dead superb. By the final bird tweets, the crowd went ape!
They finished with a triumphant "Yours Is No Disgrace", before encoring with a full length "Roundabout" with drummer Mitch Harwood excelling on the mid section. They left the stage to rapturous applause before generously returning to chat to their public. Steve Carney's outstanding vocal ability, and natural ease with an audience made him an authentic Jon Anderson. He dressed like Jon on a good day circa Union (without the red socks and flip flops, Thank God!). Deep down he must he been a bit cheesed off of the lack of crowd at tonight's show, and the odd "Gates" heckle (sorry Steve, I won't do it again, honest!), but he wasn't about to let it show.
Robert Illes did Steve proud. His use of Red Gibson added grit and a blues quality to the songs perhaps Steve would not have thought relevant for the recent shows, but the songs but they sounded so fresh and vibrant, it nearly brought tears to the eyes. Tom Dale, on rhythm guitar, backed him up admirably using more innovative use of the guitar than Mr Sherwood provided during this tenure with Yes, and added extra vocal harmony to the fore.
Mitch Harwood not only had the mind numbing of gelling in Bill Bruford intricate jazz style, with Alan White stadium powerhouse drumming, but singing the Chris Squire harmony's as well! If anybody had to take Chris Squire's part in aYes tribute band, it would be sorely tempting to turn that bass amp to 11, and hit the string as hard as humanly possible. Full marks to Jon Bastable for anchoring the band in a subtle for firm manner, coming to the forefront in necessary moments like "Heart of The Sunrise" to superb effect.
And finally, the Spanish keyboard maestro Gonzalo Carreas. If you took him out of the frame and put him on his own, you would be forgiven for thinking he was Tom Brislin's successor in Yes. He is that good. I wonder if Anderson and Squire are ware of his talent? Whilst tackling most of Wakeman's part just as well as Rick ever did, his presence of style reminded me Pat Moraz during parts of "Yours Is No disgrace" .
While we wait for next time Fragile visit this part of the country, it's plain to establish that seeing Fragile contribute more to Yes fans than just biding time waiting for Jon and co to spring back in to action. In fact many people left Bar Cuba PREFERING Fragile to Yes. Judging by the sky high standards of the recent Magnification album and tour, what greater compliment can one pay them?
Jon Bastable 's Rickenbacker
Bill Harwood or Mitch White?
Just thought I'd throw you a few words about the gig last night at Bar Cuba. Apologies for the incredibly poor attendance. I'm not sure why this venue seems to struggle with crowds, usually the ticket prices are too high, but nobody could complain at a measly £5, surely.
As for the gig, well the intimacy and great sound made it feel like I was seeing Yes in my own front room. Although the set was curtailed (boo!) from the usual 2.5 hours that I've seen you do at the Limelight in Crewe, you still packed in a great deal of my favourites. Opener Siberian Khatru is amongst those favourites and really sets the pace for the night. Wonderous Stories was sublime once again, but most praise has to be reserved for Close To he Edge. This was absolutely awesome. I can't wait to see it performed again in Crewe later this year.
I've seen many tribute bands (30-40 at least) over the last few years and I can honestly say that you are the best of the lot. It says something that I would rather see you guys play than see Yes these days; seeing as £35 is well steep for a seat at the back of a large venue, and with Fragile I can see you up close with a setlist that Yes wouldn't dream of attempting these days.
I know you must get requests all the time, but I might as well throw in my 10 pence worth. I know you're working on Awaken (one of the greatest songs ever written), but it would also be great to hear you do Turn Of The Century, Parallels, Onward or Release Release too. Or maybe even Shoot High, Aim Low. I'm sure you could do any Yes song justice.
Anyway, I'll sign off now. Keep up the great job and I'll see you soon.
The Tribute Band Premier League
It's the second time I have seen the band, and my wife's first experience.
Again a faultless performance.....Helen is now a true convert.
Note perfect as usual.
What can I say......Fragile are definitely in the premier league of tribute
bands are are in the top 3 of this league as well.
Thanks again guys for a spot on performance.
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