Fragile, At The Robin, Brierley Hill, October 14th 2000
By The Dudley Yesheads
Ever since I
got involved with Fragile just over a year ago Steve Carney
has been telling me about The Robin; the venue, the crowd
and the people. So, we travelled up to see what it was all
about and from the opening moments of the gig it was obvious
that we were in a great venue, with a great crowd and most
importantly of all there was a special kind of bond or
rapport between band and crowd there that brings it all
together. But don't take my word for it, I'll let a few of
the Yesheads there take you through the
Ever since I got involved with Fragile just over a year ago Steve Carney has been telling me about The Robin; the venue, the crowd and the people. So, we travelled up to see what it was all about and from the opening moments of the gig it was obvious that we were in a great venue, with a great crowd and most importantly of all there was a special kind of bond or rapport between band and crowd there that brings it all together. But don't take my word for it, I'll let a few of the Yesheads there take you through the show!
After purchasing the excellent "Live at the Half Moon" CD, and the disappointment of the cancelled gig earlier this year, I had been looking forward to this gig for a long time and expectations were pretty high.
These were exceeded far beyond my wildest expectations, by a band who were so tight, I'm not even sure the magnificent YES would have been able to maintain such a level of consistency throughout the whole gig.
I met up with friends before the gig, some attending purely on my review of the first gig at the Robin in June 1999. Some were pretty sceptical that an authentic YES sound could be reproduced even half decently.
These doubts were blown away within 5 minutes of the opening, with the storming 'Cinema' leading into as good a 'Siberian Khatru' that I've had the pleasure to hear. My friends were absolutely gobsmacked. It's difficult to pick out particular songs for special mention, as the whole set is packed with classics, all played with the same enthusiasm, skill and obvious pure enjoyment. 'Heart of the Sunrise', a particular favourite of mine, was as tight as can be, the merging of 'Awaken' with 'And You & I' worked absolutely beautifully, and the YES medley flowed superbly from one classic to the next.
The crowd reaction at the end of each number showed their appreciation of a truly wonderful band. It's just a shame there weren't more of them, as a full house at the Robin would have been a fitting tribute. I'm not going to pick out individual members of the band, as this was a collective effort in creating a quality of sound which I can honestly say I've never heard before in over 10 years of attending gigs at the Robin.
All I can say is, if there are any YES sceptics out there, go and see this band, travel long distances if necessary but go and see them. At the end of the gig, I was speaking to a young bar tender who had never heard any YES music before. He was so impressed by the band that he was going to start his YES collection the next day. This is what it's all about !!!!!
Steve, Jon, Mitch, Tom, Gonzalo and Rob, thanks for a magical evening, please come back soon.
Fragile have undergone some changes and tribulations since the last time they were at the Robin, which my organiser tells me was a surprisingly distant 16th September 1999 : they were due to play here earlier this year but their Steve Howe guitarist left them, closely followed by their Rick Wakeman keyboardist, and then their drummer Mitch had a worrying bout of peritonitis too. those of us on their mailing list watched their web site (www.yestribute.com) with interest - would they all pull through ? where would they ever find another guitarist who could play Howey's stuff ? after all, Fragile are one of only two bands anywhere in the world who have taken on the frankly tricky task of covering Yes songs (the other, American band, cheats by using a lady lead singer to do Accrington Jon's vocals, so it's not really cricket, is it) and as such have not picked an easy band to duplicate. relief all round then, to see them return to gigging and even get enough practice in to risk recording a live CD at the Half Moon !
So Bob and I arrive at the Robin for some pre-gig beer, and soon the traditional Yes introduction music of Stravinsky's "Firebird Suite" comes over the PA : Fragile take to the stage and Bob and I eagerly check out the new guys while they are shuffling about in the dark waiting for the intro music to end. unbelievably, Fragile have transcended their impossible brief - their new keyboard player is a pretty good lookalike for Patrick Moraz (sideburns not included), and the new guitarist is a bearded Peter Banks doppelganger too ! where do they keep finding them from ??! and when the band finally kick in with a remarkably tight "Cinema", Robert the new guitarist easily manages the Trevor Rabin stuff and Gonzalo, the new keys guy, is similarly impressive. just to underline the point, they go straight into "Siberian Khatru" and Robert's Steve Howe abilities are clearly evident too on this tricky song, with Gonzalo coming up with a suitably flowery and twiddly Wakeman sound : while the rest of the guys are back again - Tom solid on the essential second guitar for the full sound, Mitch tight on drums and harmony vox, Jon clearly having fun in the part of Chris Squire and Steve as wonderful as ever in the unfeasible task of reaching Anderson's high notes. Robert has an acoustic guitar clamped in playing position on some sort of rickety stand at the side of the stage to allow quick switching of instruments without unstrapping - an old Steve Howe trick, though Robert' s stand occasionally wobbles alarmingly.
What's this ? Steve Carney sings through the "Outboard, River, Blue Tail, Tail Fly" bit at the end with his eyes closed in inspirational fashion but is he peeking down at an on-stage crib sheet ? surely not.! the Robin Hood crowd - not as densely packed out as normal, it has to be said - greet the end of the song with a huge cheer, tinged a bit with relief that Fragile have managed to replace their missing instrumentalists, I felt, and Steve chats a bit to us, clearly relieved that the Robin's traditional enthusiasm for Yes music remains unabated, and that Fragile are among friends again. a full-harmony-starting "I've Seen All Good People" is next, also a top rendition, with an audible contribution from the crowd on the "all we are saying. is give peace a chance" bit and with Jon Bastable's bass and Gonzalo 's Hammond organ particularly authentic : then we are treated to an accurate and genuine-sounding "Time And A Word", with Peter Banks' solo faithfully present, and then, maybe to get it over with while the evening is still early, Steve Carney introduces "Heart Of The Sunrise". you all know how hard this is to play, and this was Fragile's tightest version yet. it's a fearsomely intricate song, with evil timing changes and multiples of keys, and, rising to the challenge, Jon treats us to some joyous Squire bassplay, Steve hits the notes beautifully, I watched Tom doing some lovely fills and supportive playing, Gonzalo's organ-sound was spot on, and Mitch's timing accuracy held it all together masterfully, while Robert on lead guitar could only have been more Howe-sounding if he'd been playing a yellow semi-acoustic Gibson rather than a pearl-scratchplated Fender. I remember seeing Fragile's first gig here at the Robin and Steve Carney telling us after that "Heart Of The Sunrise" was a particularly hard one for them to play : and how many tribute bands have YOU ever seen that get an appallingly difficult song 99% right and still feel they have to apologise for it.?
The next one up is a Fragile-arranged "Owner Of A Lonely Heart", played as if as Banks and Wakeman had been the instrumentalists, an interesting combination of the two soloists' styles and a slower, swingier version than the full-on "90125" version. then Robert strolls to his free-standing acoustic and delights us all with "Mood For A Day", pretty tight and with a satisfying amount of facial expression and a naughty glint in his eye. ever ambitious, Fragile then announce a "medley" of recognisable Yes tunes : in this case this 15-minute medley is a combination of the first half of an unexpected, brave and spendidly attempted "Awaken", in which Robert's Howe stuff is often amazingly spot on and Tom's rhythm pole was impressively in evidence (oo-err missus !), all finished off with the whole of "And You And I" where Mitch's percussion is as if Alan White were there, and Jon goes for it on his bass, clearly thriving in the elegance of Squire's great, beautiful basslines. trust me, I'm a bass player - I know...
The band leave the stage for a rest now, leaving Robert and Gonzalo to play a self-penned instumental for guitar and keys called "Theme" : somehow very Yes and rather intriguing. then Fragile come back on to embark on a Marathon Yes medley : this time it's 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 Gonzalo's 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", another complex and multi-layered Yes tune requiring all of the Fragile chaps to be on their musical toes throughout. the whole arrangement was almost 30 minutes of fiendishly intricate and beautifully played Yes music requiring skill and sensitivity from all of the performers, and the Robin's knowledgeable crowd were suitably appreciative at the medley's completion. with the rest of them going off for a quick towel down, Steve and Gonzalo stay on stage to treat us to "The Meeting" from "Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe", which was a very nice treat, and then the evening begins to wind up with a spendidly performed "Roundabout" and an equally spiffing "Starship Trooper", during which the band members are introduced, with each member seemingly performing a not-necessarily-Yes personal favourite. thus, Robert surprises us with a bit of Tull's "Thick As A Brick", Spanish born Gonzalo (variously nicknamed as "Noo-Noo" (ask him - I did), or, wonderfully, "The Iberian Khatru" !?) plays an arrangement of "Wonderous Stories", Jon has a try at Squire's "Amazing Grace", Mitch (who has played with the Animals) drums and sings to "We Gotta Get Out Of This Place", Tom goes mental with "Whole Lotta Love" and "Paranoid" until a pointed drum signal tells him to calm down (!), and Steve Carney (why he was introduced as "spotty bum" should ever remain a mystery, I fancy) does the first line of an accapella "Dancing With The Moonlight Knight", from Genesis' "Selling England By The Pound". then the band return to "Starship Trooper" to wind the whole thing up, during which Tom's guitar strap comes off and he has to crouch at the side to finish playing, Steve adds a bit of vocal from "We Have Heaven" and then the set's over and maybe 20 people hang around after to congratulate them and get the live CD signed.
Phew ! well done, guys ! it was clearly a night where you had to be a Yes fan to enjoy yourself, but we were, so we did. I know that Fragile enjoy playing the Robin as a venue more densely populated with Yes-heads than most, and Heaven only knows why there seem to be so many Yes enthusiasts living in Brierley Hill, but as long as they want to keep visiting, there'll be people up here ready to listen. see you at the next one !
Just a few comments on my first viewing of the band. Great selection of songs from mainly early YES era, 'Medley' section really works well, picking out the best bits of the more longer YES tracks.
I have to say, being a big YES fan for the last 30 years, that i truly admire these guys, for having the balls to get up in front of true die hard YES fans, and try to replicate some of the intricate material that is YES music.I was pleased that there was a very good turn out for this gig, some obviously Fragile fans and some i'm sure YESheads coming to see whether they can cut the mustard. Well from the reception they got, i know we were all well impressed. I think that if you are a true YES fan, it's all to do with love of music, especially melody, which YES give layer upon layer, and as i'm also sure, most YES fans are musicians themselves or try to be, and can relate to the difficulty of reproducing this level of playing, so i give the thumbs up to Fragile for what was a great nights work, so i bought the CD, which again is excellent, and went home happy.
However, i would like to make the following points, some praises, some not, but any critisism please believe me is purely meant to be constructive.Vocals - Steve, his enthusiasm was great, it's obvious he can't reach all the notes, but manages to do his best with a few subtle key changes here and there, however it does makes you realise how unique Jon Anderson's voice really is. The thing that surprised me most though was 'Soon', which i thought he would really struggle on, however he pulled it off amazingly well. I thought Steve could further be helped by more of the layered harmonies from other members of the band, Mitch has an excellent voice and did a great job, but a lot of harmonies were missing and when they were there, were not correct. this i'm sure could be worked on further, although it was more noticeable when there were tricky riffs from the guitarists to sing over ie. sib-khatru verses etc. Remember Steve Howe isn't a great singer, but within the structure of YES harmonies, it does work. Still, very well done Steve & Mitch.
Guitars - Robert is obviously the nucleus, and he was brilliant, i cannot fault him, Tom i felt like Billy Sherwood, looked out of place at times, however, when he did get his moment, he did it with showmanship and panache.
Bass - Jon on bass, well he really did make it look easy, never put a foot wrong all night, playing was superb, note for note, great Chris Squire sound, wished he would have done more on 'the fish', really go for it.
Drums - Mitch, this guy, was the business, i was blown away by his playing, again like Jon B., i didn't hear a mistake and he nailed every number. also excellent harmonies and vocal backing, a real plus.
Keyboards - Gonzalo, now, as i play a little keyboards myself, i have a few extra comments here. There's no doubt that Gonzalo is a great keyboardist, however a few points i would like to make. I know we all like speedy scale type solo's, ala Wakeman, but in moderation. A little less scales and more feeling would suffice. But my strongest comments have to be for the chord sequence at the beginning of 'Heart of the Sunrise', behind the initial slow bass riff, i don't know what Gonzalo was playing, but it was not correct, and did spoil which has to be one of the best sections of YES music going. Sorry Gonzalo but i had to say it, that chord sequence is so important to the structure of that sequence and it just ain't right,(see below). Also again, with what i thought was a great rendition of 'Long Distance Runaround' was spoilt again, by incorrect piano chords in the chorus. i hope i am not being to harsh, but i felt it needed saying. (PS. Correct mellotron chords for 'HOTS' are as follows - (D# G# C#) - (E G# C#) - (F G# A#) - (F# G# B D#) - (F# A# C#) repeated etc. Another idea, Maybe the middle section of 'Awaken' could be substituted for 'South side of the Sky' which i know would gain a huge amount of brownie points from YES fans who have been demanding it live from YES for 30Years.
I will however, end on a positive note. Fragiles rendition of 'Owner' was awesome, get YES's permission, and get it recorded, or even get YES to re-record it, and take the credits, it's a monster hit in the re-making.
Finally, well done boys, keep up the great web-site, tour again, i will be there - 'we will follow'.
Last night was the third time I have seen Fragile at the Robin. Having heard that changes had been made to the line-up I was curious as to whether the high standard could be maintained . I need not have worried.The two new members performed brilliantly, the whole set was played with vibrance and enthusiasm and once again Fragile went down a storm. I can't give you a single criticism of the gig, in fact I found myself closing my eyes and letting the sounds wash over me and so accurate were the renditions that at times I could barely believe this was'nt the real thing. If you are a Yeshead and have not seen Fragile - shame on you ! This band deserves a bigger support.
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