How does staging affect Yes music? – 586

Produced by Joseph Cottrell, Ken Fuller, Wayne Hall and Jeffrey Crecelius

This week Mark and I talk about various different approaches Yes have had to their stage design over the decades. This was partly prompted by the rumour that the band are intending to change they way in which they set up from 2024 onwards.

Do let us know what Yes stage setups have been your favourites and why in the show notes for this week’s episode.

  • What is your favourite Yes stage setup?
  • Do you like 3D sets?
  • Are the current video walls a good idea?

Let us know if you agree with us!

The ‘revolutionary’ revolving stage – photo by Jeremy North

A selection of live photos:

1973 | 1974 | 1975 | 1976 | 1977 | 1978 | 1980 | 1984 | 1991 | 2003 | 2019 |

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  • Joseph Cottrell
  • Ken Fuller
  • Jeffrey Crecelius and
  • Wayne Hall


Aaron Steelman

Dave Owen

Mark James LangPaul Tomei
Joost Maglev

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Paul WilsonMartin Kjellberg
Bob MartilottaLindMichael O’ConnorWilliam Hayes
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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:

5 replies on “How does staging affect Yes music? – 586”

My favorite stage set will always be the ’76 tour, as anyone who saw a show then in person will understand. Just a stunning visual feast with the crabs, lighting, lasers & backdrop. The ’77 tour shows were very colorful but simpler, the ’78-’80 in the round shows were fantastic, the ’84 stage was clean & modern and the lasers made a welcome return!, ’87-’88 was a letdown visually, ’89-’90 ABWH shows looked fantastic, Union shows in ’91-’92 a great return to in the round, the ’94 shows sounded excellent but were spare visually, the ’08-’09 shows with the sails looked very nice & were a nice surprise, and the video walls in recent years got better each year. My only personal disappointment is not seeing any of the ’04 shows with Roger’s inflatables-it was a short tour & they didn’t come anywhere close to me. Since ’75 I’ve only missed the ’04, ’12 & ’17 US tours.
Looking forward to whatever changes Yes make for future tours.

I didn’t see the ’76 tour unfortunately. Too young and too far away. I first saw photos of it in the Roger Dean book ‘Magnetic Storm’ in the mid-80s. I was amazed and it cemented my love of Yes. I guess because none of the shows were professionally filmed and released, that tour has gained mythic status amongst Yes fans. It still amazes me that they were unable to capture those shows for posterity. I know rumours abound about ‘Yessongs 2’ and stories about reams of film existing of the shows somewhere. I expect we’ll never see them in any form. Whilst it’s nice that there’s some Super8 up on YouTube, it’s a poor substitute.

I wonder did that tour hurt Yes financially? Thinking about ELP, the Works tour in ’77 basically bankrupted them and they never recovered. They were in decline anyway (as was prog) but that was the nail in the coffin for them.

The ’77 Yesshows tour was still visually arresting but definitely toned down from the previous year. The In The Round shows though were incredible. There’s something about Yes and revolving stages. It just fits! Thankfully for us fans, this tour did get captured on video professionally.

My first Yes live experience was ABWH and whilst the 3D staging was impressive, it wasn’t anywhere near ’76. I’ve had the privilege of seeing Union, OYE, Ladder, ’02, ’04 and beyond. I still have mixed feelings about the ’04 tour. It was trying hard to recapture something of the magic of ’76 but never really got there. Since then I guess staging has been a bit more conventional and conservative.

I am probably in a very small minority among Yes aficionados in actively preferring simplicity over elaborate stage sets. For me, the music is absolutely central, and anything visual should complement rather than distract from that, and especially from the ability to view the musicians. Therefore I appreciate lighting carefully calibrated to enhance the sound, the stage being as uncluttered as possible (apart from the instruments), and purity of line in preference to visual bombast. A simple outline Yes logo – so elegant – and white screens absorbing colour and abstract shape rather than reflecting images and pictures would be fine for me. I generally prefer the aesthetic of jazz and classical music to rock, where the visual aspect is watching musicians. In this context, everything else is left to the imagination, reserving theatrical design and visual intensity for opera, where it helps tell a story or set a magical scene; or psychedelically-oriented music, where the combination of sound and light/image effects is indispensable to the experience. But I appreciate that progressive rock has thrived on presentational drama and theatricality, and the enjoyment that brings to many. So if it’s your thing, great! (The 35th anniversary ‘blow up’ set was a curiously noble attempt to evoke the overload of the ’70s, but just ended up coming across as a bit wobbly and chintzy to me; the 2003 shiny silver drapings looked cheap and awful. I’m not a fan of spangly capes, dress-up costumes and furry boots, either, I’m afraid…. but, oh, the music!)

PS. I like the revolving stage (particularly in smaller venues like Westbury). Regarding the photo you’ve used of current Yes… what on earth is that sacking by Billy’s feet about? Presumably keeping some wiring safe… but it’s unsightly.

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