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Published: 2001/08/27
by Art Howard

Yes with Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Chastain Park, Atlanta- 8/18

Yes? Yes. Chastain Park? No.
Yes and Atlanta Symphony play well at Chastain Park for those who could hear them

Atlanta’s Chastain Park Amphitheatre is frequently criticized as a place where wine-and-cheese yuppies gather to talk shop while drowning out the major artists playing in front of them. Yes’ Chastain show on August 18th revealed that it was neither the yuppies nor the band that made the show less than what it could have been it was the venue itself.

Whoever laid out the money for this amphitheatre built it just yards away from an apartment complex, so a noise ordinance is in effect, and the bands are only allowed to play at a very low volume. This means that someone saying “excuse me” to get to the bathroom could blot out Yes and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, who were joining the band. As a result, tensions mounted in the audience throughout the show.

During Steve Howe’s acoustic guitar solo, “Mood for a Day,” the shouts of “LOUDER!” from the crowd were louder than the sound system. Howe could probably hear the shouting better than he was hearing himself. At the end, as the band encored with “I’ve Seen All Good People,” the guy in front of me poured a beer over the head of the guy in front of him, and that guy leapt back over his seat and began choking the guy in front of me. A barely audible concert + beer = violence. Despite the problems, the band played on with smiles on their faces.

As far as Yes went, Alan White is just not a great drummer. I felt he played poorly on the live Yessongs album from 1973, and things haven’t gotten any better in 28 years. Used to the criticism was, “Alan White is no Bill Bruford (Yes’ original drummer).” Now the criticism is: not only is he not Bill Bruford, he’s also not Stanton Moore, Jeff Sipe, or even Neil Peart. I would rather hear Yes with any of those drummers than White, who’s sense of time seems to wander and who takes the swing out of Bruford’s original parts.

Chris Squire’s role in redesigning the tone of the bass guitar and bringing the instrument to the fore in rock is undeniable, but his solo was no great shakes.

On the up side, Yes turned in a devastating version of “And You and I” with the symphony, complimented by some surprise harmonica from Squire, which was very well done. They also played a new song called “Don’t Go” that sounded nice, and some deep cuts like “Perpetual Change” and “The Gates of Delirium.” Jon Anderson’s voice actually sounds stronger now than it did in the early 70’s; he may actually be the best musician in the band. Anderson also proved to be a very warm and engaging front man. “It’s hot, it’s raining: it must be Atlanta!” he joked, then asked the crowd, “Do you need some towels? We have some backstage we’ll bring out for you.” Steve Howe was Steve Howe, which is all he needed to be.

Though Yes and the ASO played well, they couldn’t overcome the stumbling block of the noise ordinance. A veteran of 25 Yes shows seated next to me said Chastain was the worst venue he’s ever heard them in, and urged me to go see another show at another venue on the tour. I might just take him up on that.

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