In The Present, Live From Lyon is the latest live album recorded by the progressive rock giant Yes. This double-CD was recorded in Lyon, France, on the first of December 2009. At the time, the line-up consisted of Chris Squire (bass guitar, backing vocals), Steve Howe (guitars, backing vocals), Alan White (drums), Oliver Wakeman (keyboards) and Benoit David (lead and backing vocals). This indicates that this album has been recorded prior to their latest studio album Fly From Here (see review). Before Yes started to record that album they discharged Oliver Wakeman in order to let Geoffrey Downes rejoin to play the keyboards. I guess it's generally known that they toured without Jon Anderson, because his health problems prevented him from singing. That was the reason why he was replaced by the Canadian singer David Benoit, who sang in Close To The Edge, a Yes tribute band, and still sings in his own band Mystery.
Beside the recordings of this live show this release contains a DVD as well. During 55 minutes you can watch interviews with all band members and excerpts from the live show. Unfortunately they didn't include the whole concert. However, you can enjoy the largest parts of Roundabout and Machine Messiah. You might enjoy several interesting moments on this DVD for instance with Oliver Wakeman explaining how he learned to play the keyboard parts from his father, Tony Kaye and Geoff Downes are worthwhile watching. The story of Benoit David, who explains how he got the job being a singer with Yes, is entertaining as well.
However, the most important parts of this release are the two discs which contain the music of this live show in Lyon. This show offers us classics as Siberian Khatru, Heart Of The Sunrise, And You And I and South Side Of The Sky. The new line-up played most of these old classic songs rather well, but sometimes I had the feeling that some of them got a slower version. Especially Siberian Khatru and Owner Of A Lonely Heart appeared to be played in a slower pace. I'm positive about the contributions of vocalist Benoit David - meanwhile replaced by Jon Davison (Glass Hammer) - and Oliver Wakeman. It's very difficult to replace a singer like Jon Anderson, but it has to be said that David really did his utmost to succeed. However, it's keyboardist Oliver Wakeman who impressed me most. Listen for example to the great synthesizer solos on South Side Of The Sky, Starship Trooper and Machine Messiah and you'll get my drift. I think many people will be quite surprised that Yes included rarely performed tracks like Tempus Fugit, Machine Messiah - both from Drama (1980) and recorded without Anderson - the beautiful ballad Onward from Tormato (1978) and Astral Traveller from Time And A Word (1970). All these songs got fine live versions, especially the high-leveled tracks from Drama.
I already told you about the fine performances of the new musicians in the band, but the oldies Squire, White and Howe were all in great shape too, especially Squire and his beautifully toned Rickenbacker bass sounded as strong as ever. The band still know how to improvise instead of playing the original studio versions note by note. That's a great compliment to the musicians. Good examples of strong improvisations are Yours Is No Disgrace and Starship Trooper. It's impossible to compare In The Present, Live From Lyon with the classical live albums Yessongs (1973), Yesshows (1980) and Keys To Ascension (1996). But this certainly doesn't mean that the band didn't succeed in releasing a fine album for their fans!
***+ Henri Strik (edited by Peter Willemsen)
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