Symphonic Live [DVD/Blu-Ray]

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By the mid-'90s several classic rock bands began collaborating with orchestras both live and in the studio. Yes was always one of the most obvious examples for which this practice would fit musically. The pioneering British prog rock group recorded 2001's Magnification with an orchestra during a period without a keyboardist as a fully integrated member. The subsequent tour is captured on the 2002 DVD and CD package Symphonic Live. Vocalist Jon Anderson, guitarist Steve Howe, bass guitarist Chris Squire, and drummer Alan White are joined by supplemental keyboardist Tom Brislin and the European Festival Orchestra, conducted by Wilhelm Keitel. Symphonic Live, which runs almost three hours, takes some time to settle into a groove, but it eventually does. Without a dominant keyboardist like Rick Wakeman (who would re-join yet again after this tour), Geoffrey Downes, Patrick Moraz or Tony Kaye as an equal foil, Yes' music is robbed of its full power, and Brislin is rarely given the opportunity to step up. Old favorites like "Close to the Edge," "Long Distance Runaround," "Starship Trooper," "And You and I," "I've Seen All Good People," "Owner of a Lonely Heart" (a surprise inclusion, with Howe looking mildly uncomfortable playing Trevor Rabin's riffs), and "Roundabout" are performed. Magnification is represented by "Don't Go," "In the Presence Of," and the title track. But Symphonic Live really soars when Yes reaches out to its core fan base for two marathon-length epics: "Gates of Delirium" from 1974's Relayer and "Ritual" from 1973's infamous Tales from Topographic Oceans. The sweeping musical twists and turns are simply stunning, and they are skillfully executed by both Yes and the orchestra. Several pieces of digital animation and World War I footage supplement director Aubrey Powell's clean visual presentation. Due to obvious time limitations the Symphonic Live bonus CD cuts some songs.

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