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Union Live 1991 – new and old songs – 469

Produced by Jeffrey Crecelius, Wayne Hall, Preston Frazier and Bill Govier


This week, Mark and I have been listening to and watching some recordings of the Union Tour in 1991. It’s a special one for Mark as it was his very first experience of Yes live – what a way to start. Listen out for our thoughts on that a little later in the episode when we compare notes on a couple of live versions of songs from the Union album and a couple of older songs.

  • How do 8 Yes men get on together live?
  • Howe and Rabin together!
  • Kaye complementing Wakeman?

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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

12 replies on “Union Live 1991 – new and old songs – 469”

I really enjoyed your discussion about the Union tour, and glad you picked “Shock to the System” as one of the selections.
This took me back to 1991, and the whole build up to seeing the band on two consecutive nights at Wembley Arena. The first I heard was a Sunday newspaper advertisement for the shows, which featured the Roger Dean logo in service for the first time since “Classic Yes” and explicitly listed the eight-man team. I bought tickets as soon as possible.
It emerged that there was also going to be a new album. Chris Squire was interviewed on BBC Radio One or Two by someone, possibly Richard Skinner, at a point before reheasrsals had started, and before the album was released, and previewed “Lift Me Up” and “The More We Live”. This was the first time I ever heard Billy Sherwood’s name.
The album was released on April 30. I still had no idea how the live shows were going to work, and expected that they would take a relay team approach, with the studio personnel playing their material and the ensemble coming together for the tentpole pieces holding the show up. I heard a rumour that they were going to play “Awaken”, literally by word of mouth.
News was sparse. I had been working for a company until Autumn 1989 where I had access to the the Notes From The Edge email newsletter and the Usenet newsgroup. But until Spring 1992, I was completed separated from what we now call the internet. In retrospect, I’m very grateful for this because the shows made a massive impact on me without advance expectations.
I did get one preview though. On the evening of Sunday May 12, BBC TV screened a benefit concert for Kurdish refugees after the Gulf War. This was live show from Wembley Arena and had been advertised as featuring Yes. Chris Tarrant was presenting, and introduced a contribution from Yes – “Shock To The System” live from Pensacola, actually recorded a few days previously.
This was my first glimpse of OctoYes. My first surprise was that they were all playing together. It was a track from “Union” which made me think they’d feature the album significantly in the set. They all seemed to be having a laugh, which heartened me, although Steve and Rick were looking furiously studied, perhaps at having to recreate what Jonathan Elias and Jimmy Haun had played in studio! Chris and Trevor were having a ball, and it was even possible to spot Tony during the quiet breakdown.
I came away feeling excited and reassured.
Six weeks later I saw them in the flesh on the Saturday and Sunday nights at Wembley and an approeciation of Yes that had smouldered for over a decade finally caught fire. I wore my blood-spattered Dean logo T shirt for years until it disintegrated.
It was a very long six and a half years until they came back for the “Open Your Eyes” tour.

(Trevor’s synth-doubling squiggles on “Heart of the Sunrise” originated, I think, on the “BIg Generator” tour. If you listen to the version on “Yes Years” it sounds as though he’s taking that part all by himself unless Tony is very quiet.)

Good discussion! This episode makes me wish once again that I’d seen this tour, and also makes me try once again to find the ultimate or limited edition of the DVD. But I’m never able to find it.
Anyone have an extra copy?

I saw the Union tour on May 15, 1991 at the Great Western Forum in Inglewood, CA. It was a great show, in the round, with (as usual with Yes) exquisite sound – especially for a sports arena. The official DVD release was recorded barely three months later; the very last show of the very last leg of the tour. I remember how excited I was when they announced that FINALLY a video and audio recording of the tour was going to come out, and when it did, WOW: what a colossal disappointment! I don’t think I ever even watched the entire video. All of them looked tired and flabby and listless, the performance was (to say the least) unenthusiastic, and the sound quality was not great, unless you are a really big fan of Alan’s bass drum. I’m not surprised to learn that Bruford was ready to say “I’m out!” after it. The CD was no better, and it has been deleted from my iTunes library. This is the second worst Yes live show I’ve ever seen, the first worst being the one I walked out of not even half way through on the 2019 Cruise To The Edge.

The Denver show that Kevin referenced and is available on YouTube was just a few days before the L.A. show I attended and is a much better representation of the amazing logistical feat they were pulling off on this tour. Good performance with a lot of energy to it, and it has pretty decent sound.

…and, in case you’re wondering – NO, I still don’t quite believe that I have to use the word “worst” in conjunction with a Yes concert!

Oh, I SO wish I had seen this tour! While YIND perhaps suffers from an excess of disparate styles, overall the enlarged YES is not only firing on all cylinders but their arrangements creatively utilize each man’s strengths, forging a massive sound without stepping on each other’s musical toes. This had to have been worked out in rehearsal…what I would’ve given to be a fly on the wall in the Union-tour rehearsal room!

This rendition of Heart of the Sunrise is my favorite live versionersion; I don’t mind Trevor’s synth-doubling & notice his harmonizing in 3rds with Steve in the closing phrase of the main instrumental theme! Add the double keyboards & drums plus Jon’s performance and it’s a glorious celebration of Andersonian-solar-spiritual energy.

Like you, Kevin, I agree that the live Shock to the System far surpasses the album version, and, like Mark, I pine for a live version of Miracle of Life (my favorite song from Onion, I mean Union LOL).

Thanks for revisiting this tour; though I don’t anticipate the band reviving the late-YES oeuvre anytime soon, some YMP podcasts featuring Open Your Eyes-Ladder-Magnification era albums and tours would be welcome (also the 35th anniversary tour with the”classic” lineup)!

In the spirit of mirth exhibited by some of the Yes-West guys during the show I had to add this quip: wouldn’t you agree that Trevor’s solo in YIND sounds like the love child of Yngwie Malmsteen & Eddie Van Halen on steroids?! LOL

I saw this tour in Hartford Connecticut early in the tour. I was really blown away and even recorded a true traditional bootleg that sounds pretty good—even all these years later. The idea that I was seeing the original Fragile lineup performing long distance into the fish was wonderful, more after having been primed 2 years earlier with ABWH live in 1989 at the same venue. I do think that the amazing YINDisgrace was a bit too contrasty with Trevor Shredding it up too long in the middle for his turn. But despite that, Heart and And U and I among others were very impressive!

I don’t believe that there was antipathy between Howe and Rabin. Why would Howe come back to the Yes stable if he had issues with the guitarist who was already there? They obviously worked together for many months so if Howe wasn’t happy he’d have walked away. Mark’s constantly referring to this so called abrasion wore thin years ago. Howe was a grumpy old man when he was young so why read his ‘body language’? In any case the Yes West part of Union produced much better material than the others.

Hi Jeremy,
Obviously you haven’t watched the Yes documentary in which Howe refers to being annoyed by Rabin constantly playing over his parts during the Union tour. ..also during the Dreamtime documentary Howe again makes reference by saying that he was glad that he didn’t have any other guitar players interfering with his playing…clearly a reference to Rabin and the Sherwood who had just left the band prior to Magnification.
Sorry if this information is becoming tiresome to you. ..but they are the facts. ..

I was lucky enough to see 3 of the U.K. shows….Birmingham and the two Wembley shows. Via my brother who had done some work for the band …on the final night we were seated with Trevor’s wife and various members of the Anderson family. We were also able to hang around backstage before and after the show which was fun. Alan, Tony and Chris were very gregarious and funny. Steve , Rick and Jon were also amiable. I never got to hang out with Trevor or Bill, but have met them since.
I really enjoyed those shows….there was a tremendous energy on stage and there seemed to be a great deal of love from the fans. They were on a roll. Great fun.

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