Tormato and Relayer Live – Really? 269

Produced by Preston Frazier, David Gordon, Bill Govier, Wayne Hall and Michel Arsenault.

With Yes announcing that the next two albums to be given the ‘Album Series’ treatment are Tormato and Relayer, we take a listen to both and discuss what we think the issues and challenges are of playing these records live in 2017/18.

Mark also listens to the new Rick Wakeman album, Piano Portraits and there’s a voice mail on the same subject from Bob Keeley. Finally, our 2 pence involves Alan White.

  • What is it about Tormato and Relayer that might be difficult to recreate live today?
  • How will the current line-up cope with the 70s albums?
  • Should they still be going for ‘authenticity’?

Listen to the episode then let us know what you think!

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Show notes and links

Mark’s Piano Portraits photos:

Dave Watkinson’s back room!

Ken Fuller’s Yes videos (click links to view):

IMG_0596 IMG_0597

 

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Theme music

The music I use is the last movement of Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite. This has been used as introduction music at many Yes concerts. My theme music is not take from a live concert – I put it together from the following two creative commons sources: thanvannispen and archive.org

37 thoughts on “Tormato and Relayer Live – Really? 269”

  1. Before I listen to ghe show…..Can I just say my photo was taken about 1976-7. Yes I’m a little embarrassed, but Kevin did say something about my back room, which I had to justify ok. . Perhaps it will at least spark a conversation on Yes memorabilia.

    This week for research purposes, I visited a few key places in London regarding Yes history. More to follow ok. D

    1. WOW – great photo and it reminds me of my room when I was a teenager! May I suggest, however, that the photo was taken sometime in 1980? I noticed the back cover of Short Stories from Jon and Vangelis is included in your poster collection, which would help date the photo.

  2. Well, that worked out better than I could have imagined: Patrick Moraz, just in time for a discussion of “Relayer”! Patrick was more than willing to stay after his Q&A with Jon Kirkman and speak with anyone and sign anything (he even went so far as to create some impromptu art work on a couple of record album sleeves) – I just had to wait out all of the autograph hounds so I could chat with him for a moment. And THAT was a thing!

    As for Rick’s piano compositions, if I remember correctly, he already covered “Eleanor Rigby” on a 1997 album called “Tribute.” And that’s about it for that.

    On to the Meat (Relayer) and Potatoes (Tormatoes…?) of the show. First off, I agree with Mark completely about how the entire band seemed to step their playing up a notch or two for Relayer – especially Alan; his work on the intro to “Sound Chaser” is about the best bit of rock drumming I’ve ever heard – and that would be the biggest problem in performing it live again now. He was in really poor shape last week; had to be helped up and down from the drum riser by two stage hands (I don’t think Jeffrey could see that from his seat on the lower level; you get to see some of that stuff higher up), and the drumming he managed to do was very basic, with very little energy. Steve referred to Jay Schelen as “assistant drummer” during a Q&A session, but from my POV, Jay is the one doing all the heavy lifting, and Alan comes in for the occasional cameo appearance. I hate to say it, but I think we’re watching the long, slow and painful end of Alan’s career. He had a live Sirius Radio guest appearance during the week and he just looked awful: puffy and red and swollen, slightly slurring his speech. Jeffrey’s theory is he’s being pumped full of steroids; I tend to agree. I couldn’t stay to watch it, it was just too painful to endure.

    As for the rest of the current crew performing Relayer, I think they could pull it off. Geoff Downes comes in for a lot of criticism for his playing, but I think he’s done a stellar job of interpreting Tony and Rick’s keyboards (including a scorching synth solo toward the end of “Revealing”), and I have no reason to believe he couldn’t do the same with Patrick’s. Jon D can certainly handle the vocals and secondary guitar parts, Jay is more than up to the drums, and we all have full faith in Steve and Billy.

    “Tormato” is a whole different subject… during that same Q&A session, Steve remarked that the album really wasn’t made to be performed live. Much like the two of you today, it really needs to be gone through song by song… but I won’t cover all the details. “Onward” and “Don’t Kill The Whale” are both pretty straightforward songs that have been done live many times. “Madrigal” could go up there with the Album Series oddities such as “We Have Heaven” and “Five Percent for Nothing.” “Release Release” and “Silent Wings” could both be potential show-stoppers (think of the drum solo opportunity!)… and then there’s “Circus” and “Arriving UFO”… well, with today’s computer-assisted technology they can probably be given a fair reading – if they do manage to pull off those two, I think there’ll be some standing ovations, just for having the guts to try.

    I think that’s about enough out of me for now.

    Great show as always, Gentlemen – looking forward to future discussions.

    1. Greetings Joseph,
      Always good to hear from you. Some excellent points you have brought up. First of all..I’m very sorry to hear that Alan is in worse shape then I thought..I really hope things turn around for him but some how I can’t see that happening.
      As for the albums ..we seem to see eye to eye in everything except our opinion on Geoff. As I mentioned I do think he is a brilliant keyboard player. .just that some of the music seems out of his comfort zone. You do have one advantage over me in that you have seen him live many times…I’ve only had youtube video and the official releases to go by..maybe he has performed better in the shows you saw. In any case I look forward to this and continue to hold hope tthat Canada I’d in their touring route this time.

      1. Mark – It can only be an optimistic note that the band still seems intent on relentless touring: they have to get back to Canada sooner or later, right?

        As for Geoff (a remarkably down-to-Earth approachable guy, BTW) I wouldn’t have any problem with him looping some of Patrick’s more atmospheric parts, so long as the solos etc were still done organically. Technology is our friend – we’re able to experience a lot of things in concert these days that would simply have been impossible a decade or two ago… QPR show not withstanding!

    2. AW certainly does not sound a picture of health from your description , the slurred speech is nothing new , he was the same way back 2009 when I was talking to him pre show

      He had stepped up his performance over the last few years but when you hear Jay S you see and hear what time and and AW’s health problems have taken from the Yes engine room

      More than anything AW’s health is the most important thing and if that means giving up touring then so be it , although will be a very sad day when he has to stop for everyone in Yes land

    3. I am sure with current technology UFO and Circus can be ‘performed’, the question is … do we really want them to be? I am in favor of a massive overhaul of these songs if they are to be played live. Arriving UFO was fun because it came on the heels of Close Encounters and Battlestar Galactica – will it fly today beyond being nostalgia of cheesy 1970s pop culture? And don’t get me started on Circus of Heaven – there is nothing about that song that is not drenched in the essence of Jon Anderson. Sure they don’t mind sacking Mr. Anderson for interrupting the touring schedule with a violent asthma attack, but is anybody really going to be comfortable with them scalping a recording of his son? hahahaha no candy floss indeed..!!!

  3. JC. Great overview. It is a worry re Alan and time will come when he just isn’t fit enough. I think it’s also a tricky one playing Relayer and Tormato not only for the band, getting the ballance right for a show but to get the fans on seats also. I think I’d love it, but is that the feeling out there? Dave.

  4. Hello Gentleman,
    Great show as always ,
    agreed on all points of the show they have taken on a big task with Relayer and Tormato like Mark said only time will tell really and as far as Alan health having had that same type of surgery and not being a drummer I can tell you that it took me 15 months just to get back to work and even then it took another year or so before I was 100%.
    It might be time for Alan to retire I don’t think that’s a bad thing I just believe it makes the band better meaning it puts someone in there that can play and make it 100% work.

    I did purchase well at least downloaded the new Rick Wakeman record and I must say it is a pure delight form beginning to end. 8 of of 10
    Oh and kudos to Mark regarding Rick is in his natural state behind the piano no doubt in my mind

  5. Oh, and a big “P.S.” – Kevin: I’m shocked – SHOCKED! I tell you! – that you referred to the instrument Jon plays at the beginning of “Sound Chaser” as “a flute.” Now, I suppose that a piccolo might be classified as a flute, but it’s still called a piccolo, right? Much like a viola isn’t quite a violin… (and I’m sure you know how violinists look down on violists)…

    …and I truly am surprised that Jeremy North hasn’t already been here, commenting on Mark’s pronunciation of “Norfolk.”

    (as always, tongue planted firmly in cheek!)

  6. LOL!!!! Now now…don’t give Jeremy North any ideas! I’m glad he hasn’t found something I did wrong this week. As for the “flute” I’m actually to blame…I was the one who originally called it that…your right ..it is a piccolo.

    1. Hey chaps, since when did I become the classroom pedant? Mark’s pronunciation of Norfolk was acceptable. I bet he knows how to pronounce Leicester Worcester Berwick Alnwick and Warwick better than those living south of his border haha.
      A piccolo is a flute so don’t worry about that. It’s just a small one hence the name. A cello is a violoncello but shortened etc.

  7. Wow , to hear Gates live again , to hear TBO and OTSWOF at last live will be like a dream come true .
    I think this will mean Jay Schellen will remain in the touring band , with AW back issues I think Relayer may be a bridge to far for him , hopefully I am wrong .

    Played RW’s Piano Portraits once through and have to say it’s a very nice piece of work

    If Yes do tour Relayer and Tormato then the gauntlet is sure being thrown down to AWR and their live show after their European tour ends setlist wise ( don’t expect any changes from US setlist )

    Your serve AWR ?

    Really looking forward to seeing two dates when I head home to Glasgow next month

    Now hope Yes don’t miss out Canada on their next North American tour and especially Toronto and Ontario

    Great times in the Yes world and its extended famil

  8. Mark and Kevin – I agree with your assessment of Relayer and Tormato. I think you got it exactly right. What I wonder about is the settled notion that these two albums will be next in the series. I know we have one report on that but is that a done deal or was it just thinking out loud? You presented it as a fait accompli where I’m not convinced of that.

    Thanks again for a great podcast. And for including my brief review of Piano Portraits.

    1. Bob – You’re exactly right; I was thinking the same thing, even though I was (sort of) there at the time. We all may just be jumping the gun a bit. Still, it’s a fun and interesting topic to discuss.

    2. I just hope certain members of the band are not getting their news from this podcast. I can just imagine poor old Geoff having a heart attack on hearing the news that he is going to be performing Sound Chaser on the upcoming tour. ‘Damn you Steve Howe!!!’

  9. This makes no sense to me. I have a friend who was on the Cruise, who claims that nothing was said about this Tour during the Q & A on the Cruise. If they had already done promo artwork for it, don’t you think something more formal about this would have been mentioned there ? (P.S. : A lot of the cheesy keyboard sounds on Tormato were done on what was called a “PolyMoog”. ! )

    1. Carl – It wasn’t during the Q&A – although the subject of Tormato being done live was touched on, with Steve stating that he feels the album wasn’t really meant for live performance; and Steve himself has mentioned the possibility of and problems associated with doing Relayer in an interview with Kevin on this very podcast (I think he’s rather intimidated by his own guitar parts). The possibility of these two albums being played was mentioned in an informal, off the record conversation – not a public forum – with “an insider” who didn’t want any names mentioned. You know how it goes: “…well, you didn’t hear this from me, but…” It was that sort of thing. So, basically, yeah – it’s a rumor, but from a vaguely reliable source…

  10. One other uber-nitpicky point. I believe it was Kevin who mentioned a biotron, the keyboard Wakeman plays on Tormato. Close but not quite – it is a birotron (notice the extra “r.”) Named after the inventor, Dave Biro.

  11. I’ve been listening and lurking for a bit and not felt compelled to write anything and it would probably have taken a discussion of Relayer to get me involved. My first Yes gig was QPR at the age of 13. I had been a fan since November 73 and Relayer (coming out a day or two after my 13th birthday) was the first Yes album I got to buy at the time of its release rather than as a result of saving up and catching up. So I have a lot of fond memories of that record and that particular line up. Although the music was more complex than anything else I owned at the time I was at a slight advantage in that my older brother and his wife were into Lifetime, Jack Bruce’s solo albums and the more fusion oriented Santana records so my young ears had been opened a little bit to that sound. Anyway …. I have loved the last two UK tours (more so than any Yes shows I have been witness to since 1977 – I missed out in 1978), have been thrilled to introduce my 20 year old daughter to the music she has grown up with in a live context and I would walk a long way to hear Steve Howe and Alan White play any 70s Yes music. That said Relayer is the one record I can’t imagine being played with less than 3/5ths of the line up that made it. Topographic Oceans should be no problem – I could almost imagine that music being done as four piece or with two guitars (possibly even with two drummers or an extra percussionist) and no keys. Relayer seem to me to be a much tougher ask for a keyboard player for whom that kind of music isn’t second nature. Geoff Downes has a lot of skills but channeling both Joe Zawinul and McCoy Tyner at the same time isn’t one of them. I’ll still go (obviously) but given a choice of where to take the series next I think I would plump for Time and a Word + Magnification at the Royal Albert Hall with orchestra. Which isn’t going to happen. What I would really love to hear in a concert hall is Relayer music played instrumentally by Howe, Moraz, Sherwood and Bruford but that isn’t going to happen either.

    1. It’s great to hear from those who got into Yes way back then. Thanks Ian. The Relayer tour was also my first live experience of the band. You like Weather Report too and Time and a Word. Excellent choices.

  12. Mark I have a question, Who has the right to the sound board mix at a live show and I’m sure that the Yes music was record most if not all the time. Is it the band the promoter? I figured if anybody new the answer to this question it would be you …

    Thank you

    Paul

    1. Hey Paul,
      I’d say it’s the band. Every show I’ve been involved with…we have asked for a soundboard tape in order to gauge our performance and see if anything needs to be improved upon.
      Similarly I’ve known a few people who worked on the road crew for Rush and they regularly made soundboard cassettes for the same purpose. ..Although they would run a few recorders so they would have a few copies. Interesting note…there is a popular Rush bootleg from the 1990 Presto tour in California. ..the show was done and the sound guy put 3 copies of the show on top on the effects rack…a fan walked by…knowing what it was a grabbed one copy and left…that copy is still online on Youtube for all to hear.

  13. I hope a Relayer/Tormato tour – much as I’d love to see that – won’t mean we in Europe miss out on the Tales sides.
    Whilst Yes gave been fairly true to the original albums, I’d love to see them rework the material from that album specificaly for a live set.
    And what is all this idea of Madrigal being an oddity like Cans or 5%. I really don’to see any problem with a straight keyboard/guitar//vocal performance perhaps with Jon playing some string parts on keyboards. Geoff isn’t Rick, but it’shouldn’t not like he has to write the parts.

  14. I have never been a fan of this recent trend of playing albums in their entirety. It turns the music into stale museum pieces, and forces the performers and audience to sit through music that was never intended to be performed live. I never thought the band would choose to perform Fragile for this very reason. Now the band’s limited catalog has pushed them into a corner and they are forced to perform more arcane material ‘in its entirely’.

    1) Alan. I love Alan as much as anybody. But for his own sake it is time to retire. I saw the band perform Gates of Delirium back in July 2000, and it was brilliant, but Alan looked absolutely spent at the end of the show. Alan is not going to recover from back surgery at the age of 70 to perform Gates of Delirium, Sound Chaser and Release Release like he did when he did when he was 30. That is never going to happen. Alan is finished.

    2) Album Choices. The hosts of this program are concerned about the complexity of the Relayer material, but I think parts of Tormato are much more challenging to play than Relayer. That was one of the major criticisms of the album on its release – it sounded like everybody was trying to play lead at the same time, and there was relatively little melody or hook to make the songs memorable. From what I have read, Release Release was dropped from the set because the intensity of the song left the band too drained to perform the rest of the set at an acceptable level. If Yes at the top of their game could not pull it off, this iteration of Yes sure ain’t going to be able to do it. Relayer, to my ears, is more about stamina than complexity. I wish the band the best, but I just do not see them pulling any of this off.

    3) Younger band replacements. I do not mind the music being performed by younger players after the elder statesmen have retired, but Yes is more than just performing the music. Any tribute band can perform the music. New music has to be created and performed to properly continue the legacy. If Jay Schellen replaces Mr. White he has to bring the creativity required to continue to create and move the music forward. The band is currently existing by dredging up 45 year old songs like canonized museum relics. I just can’t get excited about seeing a band like that, no matter how much I love the music.

    Sorry my comment is so long, but I can’t decide what part to leave out. Much like Tales from Topographic Oceans I guess.

  15. Excellent show K&M

    I enjoyed your review of Rick’s album Mark, especially the anecdote about your late dad. You mentioned Holst among others. Did you know he came from Cheltenham where I live? I always try to anticipate your rating of an album based on your review before you say what it is. I had this one down as a 9/10. Last week I was also 1/10th out. Prior to that I got it spot on every time. I’m losing my touch!

    Loved your review of Tomato Kevin. You had me wondering if for years the album I’d been listening to was somehow a different version. Tonight I listened again with a fresh ear. I have to agree with the Chris quote you mentioned. As usual it is a competition between Rick and Steve vying for the same space. Rick’s keyboard sounds are pretty lame throughout, much as your description last week of the recent album. Steve fairs better. Future Times/Rejoice is great on the whole. Don’t Kill the Whale is one of the worst things they ever did, with Rick at his worst with that nauseating relentless portamento thing. I guess it was a thing of its time with the Greenpeace movement. It did raise some awareness so worthwhile. Madrigal is a Turn of the Century but nothing like as good. Yes don’t do ballads. Release Release is great, Alan at his best, tremendous drumming. Arriving UFO, another zeitgeist thing but they shouldn’t have bothered. Circus of Heaven I like though it’s not a strong song. I like the ironic twist at the end with Jon’s son.. I can’t fault Onward but it doesn’t fit in with Yes. I loved it because it’s a nice song and was written by my hero of that era. Also I could play it on guitar! OTSWOF is the only real classic. Totally brilliant. Anyway I listened to it as you may have done and did get some of the sense of wonderment I had back when it came out.

    As for the possibility of rearranging some of the numbers on the two albums, I don’t see a problem. The intro to Sound Chaser is so multi-layered who’d notice if there was or was not a piccolo? I didn’t even know it was there. I don’t remember Jon playing one and I was at two gigs on that tour. Who’s going to complain? There’s no way that Geoff Downes can reproduce the work of PM & RW so why not let him do his own thing. After all Rick pulled out all the stops and rearranged the work of Tony Kaye. Did anyone complain back in 1972?

    The Tomato gig at Wembley Arena in 1978 was broadcast by the BBC. The one I attended was the afternoon performance on the saturday. The one which was recorded and broadcast was the evening on the same day. I don’t know if it was a “soundboard” recording or if it was arranged by the Beeb. I dug out my C120 cassette recording of the broadcast (a later repeat of it when I had decent gear) I need to dig out a cassette deck to give it another listen.

    A heads up. Danny Baker is going to have Trevor Horn on his show next saturday. I’ll record it and put it up on my dropbox for those who are interested and can’t get to listen.

    1. Greetings Jeremy,

      Great to hear from you again. Thank you for the kind words regarding the episode and my album review. I didn’t know Holstein came from Cheltenham! Another piece of knowledge aquired. Thank you my friend. I enjoyed reading your comments in regard to Tormato and there are many great points you bring up. That’s the part I love about these comment sections…reading the varied opinions.
      Oh…and thank you for the heads up on the Trevor Rabin interview…I for one look forward to receiving the Dropbox link to listen to it. Thanks in advance Jeremy.

      1. The Trevor Horn interview was really good. If I put the link here no one will see it. I uploaded the Rick Wakeman interview and no-one it seems bothered to follow that up or comment.

    2. I agree with you completely about Geoff Downes’ ability to make Sound Chaser his own thing; if this tour actually does happen I’ll be looking forward to seeing it that much more – the band has been reproducing albums on these tours so faithfully it’d be nice to see them mix it up a bit more.

      I never realized the chirping sounds in the intro to Sound Chaser were Jon on a piccolo until I saw the videos of the QPR show – and I saw them do it live in 1976.

  16. I agree with you guys about Alan White. I would love for him to play the upcoming tour, but he needs to think of his health first. And Yes might have to have to face up to it and move on. (It annoys me that Jay is playing 95% of the show on a set that has ‘Alan White’ on the kick drum head.) I think of Neal Peart. I believe he realized that he could not prepare himself, and perform to the standards that Rush have set, and the standards that Rush fans expect. Yes needs to keep that in mind…the fans expect Yes music to be played correctly, not dumbed down. Keep up the good work guys!

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