This 2003 performance culled from the Montreux Jazz Festival is regarded by members of YES to be its finest gig ever to be captured on film. And after witnessing two hours and eighteen minutes of this concert footage, it would be easy to understand why. With front-man and vocalist Jon Anderson taking center stage, the music chronicles perhaps the longest running makeup of the ensemble, featuring guitar hero Steve Howe, keyboardist Rick Wakeman, bassist Chris Squire and drummer Alan White. Since the ‘70s, this unit along with a few others, helped popularize progressive-rock as they show no signs of losing a beat or conveying enthusiasm throughout this wonderful presentation.
They had the seemingly SRO audience eating of their hands during performances of "Magnification," "And You And I," amid fifteen other works that intimate an all-encompassing glimpse of the band’s chemistry. Here, Wakeman’s digital and analog keyboard arsenal appears as a semi-circle, where the outer edges are draped with silk fabric. Therefore, some of the ‘70s and ‘80s rock aura remains intact as Howe toggles between guitars, including his noticeably used and scarred Fender pedal steel. With the customary pans, zooms and overhead shots, YES looms as a larger-than-life performing machine.
Squire and Wakeman embark upon a heated jam vamp during "South Side of the Sky," to complement pieces such as Howe’s old favorite solo acoustic guitar hoedown titled "Clap." On many of these works, we see and hear the ensemble effortlessly rendering complex time signatures often marked by Wakeman’s phantasmagoric phrasings and Howe’s meticulously crafted jazz-based chord voicings and weeping steel guitar effects. But as would be the norm, Anderson’s gnomic presence and saintly vocalizations act as the equalizer.
Wakeman’s "Solo Medley," is a tour-de-force highlighting his fusion of classical and jazz, enhanced by virtuoso-style single note flurries and cascading chord progressions. Squire flexes some muscle during the intro to "Heart of the Sunrise," as the unit finalizes this exhilarating set with its mega-hit, "Roundabout." In sum, this DVD should be deemed essential for old and new fans of this time-honored ensemble that has few if any peers within the nearly forty-year sovereignty of progressive-rock.