Yes and Tales from Topographic Oceans Newcastle City Hall 8th December 1973

Yes and Tales from Topographic Oceans Newcastle City Hall 8th December 1973
yestix73The next time I saw Yes was during the “Tales from Topographic Oceans” tour when it called at Newcastle in December 1973. Yes returned to the City Hall for two sold out concerts on two consecutive nights. I went to the first night’s performance, along with a group of mates. This tour was a bold, possibly foolish, move by the band; they decided to play the whole of their new concept album during the second half of the concert. In many ways, this represented the ultimate in prog-rock pomposity and self-indulgence, and was one of several factors that made some young music fans tire of the bands of the time, and which would ultimately result in the emergence of punk rock. The first half of the concert was devoted to a run-through of Yes’ previous opus “Close to the Edge” which is a much more palatable musical piece than “Topographic Oceans”; the title track “Close to the Edge” is lengthy with meandering instrumental parts and several segments, but it does at least have a recurring melody and is actually a “song”. “Topographic Oceans” did not make for easy listening that evening. At the time it confused me.
yesprog73Was I witnessing a masterpiece, a ground-breaking piece of popular music which raised the level of the genre and truly synthesised rock composition with classical music? I must admit I found it hard going, and it is still one of my least favourite Yes albums. Of course the musical dexterity and technical virtuosity of the players was clear and fully on display that evening, but the soul of the music was lost in that very virtuosity. The day was saved by an encore of “Roundabout” which reminded me that the sharp, bright innovative Yes who astounded me a few years earlier still did exist, and that they could still fuse rock, jazz and pop and blend that mix with lyrics which hinted at hippy ideals and values, and yet at the same time confused me and took me through so many twists and turns.
Rick Wakeman tells a story of how he also lost faith in Yes in the mid-70s and famously ordered a take away curry, had it delivered to the City Hall, and ate it on stage while seated, surrounded by his vast array of keyboards and synthesisers and wearing his customary glitter cloak. This event may well have happened at this concert.
I longed to hear “Yours is no Disgrace”, “Astral Traveller” or “Starship Trooper”. More on Yes tomorrow.
Set 1: Introduction (The Firebird Suite): Close to the Edge; Siberian Khatru; And You and I; Close to the Edge
Set 2: Tales from Topographic Oceans: The Revealing Science of God (Dance of the Dawn); The Remembering (High the Memory); The Ancient (Giants under the Sun); Ritual (Nous Sommes du Soleil)
Encore: Roundabout

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6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mitch on March 3, 2015 at 11:58 am

    I was at this concert. Having to sit through ninety minutes of unfamiliar material was a real test of endurance and I agree with you Peter that at the time it was hard going.

    However, in the intervening years (over 40 of them) I have loved the Topographic Oceans album and still regularly play it. The band would include The Revealing Science of God and The Ritual on future tours.

    Rick Wakeman was never a fan of the album and I remember he mockingly referred to the LP as ‘Tales From Toby’s Graphic Go-Kart’. I believe that the curry story is from this tour but it occurred at Manchester Free Trade Hall.

    Keep up the good work but sadly not many more bands to go !

    Reply

  2. Thanks for this review, I went to the same gig and was similarly confused and disappointed – to this day I don’t listen to to the oceans album! But the three albums before it are among the best prog ever made IMHO.

    Reply

  3. I went to this gig as a 15-year-old. Hugely in awe of Steve Howe. Love this album and learned how to play the classical guitar part at the end of part three.

    Reply

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