When Yes—the iconic prog-rock band of prog-rock bands—announced it was going to perform three albums in their entirety in 2013, one of the most frequent reactions in Yes fandom was, “Why aren’t you playing Fragile?”
This week saw the announcement that this summer’s 35-date U.S. Yes tour will find the band playing two albums start-to-finish: Close To The Edge (which was played on last year’s three-album tour) and … Fragile!
Released in 1971, Fragile was the album that broke Yes big in the U.S. Featuring the FM radio hit “Roundabout,” Fragile also included such Yes classics as “Long Distance Runaround,” “South Side Of The Sky” and the epic “Heart Of The Sunrise.”
The album also marked the first time Rick Wakeman, thought to be the definitive Yes keyboardist, recorded with the band.
So why didn’t Yes play Fragile on the 2013 tour?
Well, while Fragile is definitely one of the most beloved Yes albums, there were obvious problems in bringing it onstage.
Besides the aforementioned full-band numbers, Fragile included solo pieces from each Yes member: “Cans And Brahms,” a classically tinged Wakeman keyboard instrumental; “We Have Heaven,” a heavily overdubbed voice experiment by singer Jon Anderson; Steve Howe’s solo guitar piece “Mood For A Day”; “The Fish [Schindleria Praematurus],” which bassist Chris Squire created using multiple bass parts; and “Five Per Cent For Nothing,” a short, kinda strange jazz instrumental written by drummer Bill Bruford.
Of these pieces, two of them—“We Have Heaven” and “The Fish [Schindleria Praematurus]”—are pretty much impossible to pull off totally live, without using recorded tracks or substantially altering the arrangements (as Squire has done for years by doing a live, jammy bass-solo version of his track). So there is that. Howe is certainly able to play “Mood For A Day” just as he did on the record. Keyboardist Geoff Downes can surely play Wakeman’s “Cans And Brahms” arrangement without breaking a sweat. And I guess the band can pull off some semblance of “Five Per Cent For Nothing” (to my knowledge, this will be the first time the band has played this song live, ever).
But those two solo pieces that were purely studio creations, not for live performance, will certainly present challenges. How are they going to do those live?
Furthermore, the current Yes performing Fragile (and Close To The Edge, for that matter) is questionable, since only two of the current band members (Squire and Howe) played on those albums. This again makes those solo pieces a concern—should current singer Jon Davison perform a song as inherently Anderson as “We Have Heaven?”
Presumably, the band will find its ways to play every track on Fragile, because that’s what doing a full album onstage is all about—doing the full album.
Besides the complete Close To The Edge, the band will also be doing a set of its hits and some songs from its upcoming CD, Heaven and Earth, due out July 8, the very day the tour kicks off.
It will be very interesting to see how they pull it all off.
Click here for Yes tour dates and further information.