How many times have you seen your favourite band live? Once? Maybe twice? Perhaps even a handful of times for some of you hardcore fans? How about thirty two?!
If you answered yes to that last question, stop lying, you dirty liar, because you’re obviously lying. Unless your name is JanCarol Hills. In which case, give yourself a big pat on the back.
You see, JanCarol is a fan of English prog-rockers YES. Not just any fan, but a fan who has followed her favourite band all over the place, managing to see them live thirty two times and counting. We’re not quite sure how this is even possible, but we’re assuming JanCarol is made of pure dedication and cold hard cash. To help us understand how one manages to raise their concert count to such dizzying heights, JanCarol has been kind enough to share some of her experiences with us.
Read all about it after the jump…
33 Is Not Enough!
by JanCarol Hills
Last night I was thrilled to be experiencing Yes for the 32nd time at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne. Tomorrow night, I will attend yet another Yes experience – but I am certain that when I’ve heard my 33rd Yes concert at the State Theatre in Sydney, it still will not be enough.
What is it about Yes that encourages serial concert attendance?
A wee bit of background: My first Yes album was Fragile (1971). Every morning I would listen to Roundabout to get ready for school, every night I would drift off into dreamland with Heart of the Sunrise. But my family was strict; I was not permitted to go to concerts until I was 18, coincidentally, when I left home.
I heard Drama (1980) in my 2nd year of Uni – Does It Really Happen? got radio play in the USA – but the tour had already been. By then I was quite familiar with the entire back catalogue, and all the garage band guys were trying to play like Steve Howe and Chris Squire. When 90125 (1984) came out, the garage guys were pissing and moaning about the change in guitarists to Trevor Rabin, and several of them boycotted the tour due to the personnel change.
But this was my first chance to see the band of my dreams. How many nights had we burned fires by the river looking at the starry skies while listening to Yes – “ten true summers long”? I ignored the line-up change and drove 5 hours across Kentucky with a car full of Yes fans to see them at the Lexington Rupp Arena. My very first Yes show! Dazzled by the lights, rhythm, sound, and soul show that was Yes, I vowed that one concert was not enough.
When they passed through Kentucky again, I followed them to Louisville – and thus started my career of repeating Yes concerts. But they never really repeat. Even on the same tour, each show is different. Maybe it was the laugh between Alan White and Chris Squire as they shifted the rhythmic mood. Perhaps it was the soulful duet between Tony Kaye and Trevor Rabin as they traded melodies. Perhaps it was the light on Jon Anderson as his voice lifted the music (and sometimes our feet) to the heavens. Each show is delicately and sometimes dramatically different.
I expanded my collection to include solo works by Jon Anderson, Chris Squire, Steve Howe, and Rick Wakeman. My favourite solo artist was Jon Anderson, but each of them were best when they played together in Yes or combinations thereof.
I had some disappointments; the Big Generator tour (1987) was one. Maybe it was the arena, or technical difficulties. I remember smoke coming out of the keyboard and they showed us lots of Bugs Bunny cartoons to keep us quiet while they fixed the problem. But it never really rocked. But for every loss, there were 25 gains. And I still loved the albums.
I even liked the “unofficial” albums, like Anderson, Bruford, Wakeman and Howe.
By now, I was starting to lasso new Yes friends. The garage boys were left behind when I went to Uni. My new friends needed to get into Yes, and the only way to do that – besides playing the albums over and over (which we did) – was to get them to a live show. The perfect opportunity was presented at Union (1991), where, by some fluke of band politics, promoters, record labels, and Acts of God, included ALL of the members of Yes that I knew (I didn’t count Drama just then). For the first time, I would see Rick Wakeman, and Steve Howe and Bill Bruford sharing the stage with Tony Kaye (the original keyboardist), Trevor Rabin, and Alan White.
Oh, the snobs got upset, because of the studio wizardry of the album, and called it “Onion.” (I think the ever-funny Rick Wakeman made that misnomer). But I loved the album, and was floating on a creek with a portable stereo, sunning on the limestone shelves that held the boom box in a leafy green Indiana forest. And the concert! Oh my! To see all 8 on one stage was like all of my dreams coming true at the same time. I think I left my body on several high notes, and then came drifting down to a riff from Rick Wakeman or a pizzacato arpeggio from the mighty Trevor Rabin. And my friends were thoroughly converted.
Sadly, only one show was available on my budget or schedule that year but in an alternate universe, another Jan went, and followed that show to the ends of the earth.
* * *
Every time Yes comes out with a new album, it matches what is happening in my life. With Talk (1994) it was about my marriage and how to make it work, make it vibrant, make it go. So it seemed important to me that my husband accompany me to this show to feel the magic of Yes. It was grounds for divorce when he told me that he had scheduled himself to work (he was the manager, he had control over this) on the night of the show. I ended up making new friends, and took a total stranger – and yet a Yes Friend – in my husband’s place.
I was coming close to the oath: if he doesn’t like Yes, then it’s not worth the trouble. Likewise, if he “gets” Yes, he gets me.
Hubby #1 redeemed himself later that year, when we scheduled another Talk show during our North Carolina vacation. I was dancing and grooving to the “big piece” Endless Dream when the guys near us tried to brag that they knew the “old stuff.” I laughed at them; I knew the old stuff, too.
That is the thing about Yes – they keep coming up with something new. It’s familiar, it’s the music you love, and yet, it’s new and fresh and opens you up to new feelings and experiences.
But the marriage was not saved, and when the newsgroup Notes From The Edge came to my attention, I realized I was not alone. There were hundreds – perhaps THOUSANDS of Yes Fans like me across the USA and even the world! But while I was busy divorcing, they were gathering at the most amazing concert of all: Keys to Ascension (1996) at San Luis Obispo. Later, I met many of the people who were at those shows, and later, my choice to not sell my share in the marital home, hock all of my possessions and hitchhike out there in the hopes that I could buy a ticket – seemed shallow. It is one of my deep regrets. And there were 3 nights of shows – it was Yes Heaven on Earth. We Have Heaven, indeed!
Now, though, there was this thing called the Internet, and all of these Yes fans were in touch with one another. We would invite each other to our cities, and travel around in circles to catch as many shows in a tour as we could. We were all brothers and sisters, and would safely share hotel rooms, cars, meals, travel, anything we could to get to the next show. From an American Yes Fan’s perspective, my 33 shows are “average,” with some people seeing triple digits of shows on every continent.
Once, on a Sunday in Nashville, Tennessee, my car’s radiator hose blew and it was an expensive part made steel mesh. A fellow Yes fan put down his American Express card to pay for the repair and a hotel room so that I would be safe for the night. I repaid him in Atlanta, Georgia, 2 years later. And I had to trick him into taking the money by tucking $100 bills into a bootleg CD ((that’s another thing we did in those days, trading recordings of whatever we could from any Yes show we could). He found the repayment when he was miles down the road and put the CD into his stereo and it was too late to give it back!
But I’m getting ahead of myself. For the Open Your Eyes (1997) Tour the peer pressure was great, I attended 4 shows, including the summer of the 30th Anniversary Tour in 1998. The personnel changes were interesting. Sure, Rick Wakeman was my favourite keyboardist in Yes, but Igor Koroshev had passionate musical interpretations of Rick’s body of work. And I wasn’t certain what Billy Sherwood* was doing sharing a stage with Steve Howe, but I knew that he had produced Keys to Ascension and that was good enough for me.
*Later I found that I quite enjoy Billy’s solo work, especially World Trade, as well as his collaborations with Tony Kaye, and Jimmy Haun (who worked on the Union album) in Circa , and Chris Squire (in Conspiracy)
The number of concerts per tour escalated as I met more people and had more freedom to travel to more shows. By 1999, I took in 9 shows of The Ladder on 2 continents, and met the man who would later become my 2nd husband after we fell in love on the Masterworks tour of 2000. With a love based in Yes, it was worth travelling 14,000 miles to be with him in Australia!
I moved in 2002, after the Magnification Symphonic tour with my beloved, Douglas Hills. It was a tour full of peak experience. Nights under the stars in northern Michigan, open-air shows with 80 piece orchestras. My Australian fiancé visa had just come through, but we wouldn’t dare miss these shows before we flew to this land far, far away! “Shall we be dancing downunder?”
One of the costs of coming to Australia, is that the shows are not as frequent or convenient as they were in the USA. There is enough population there to support all sorts of musical tastes, and the band goes through the USA every couple of years or so. My heart was lifted when I heard that Yes were coming to Australia! I knew I was living right, and that they were now following me!
We caught the Melbourne and Sydney shows, and enjoyed a Roger Dean art show at a tiny gallery in Sydney. You know – all of those amazing, trippy album covers? How superb it was, to see these colourful mindscapes on the walls, and meet that gentle artist. Amazingly, there were other special guests: Rick Wakeman, who played some sweet songs on the baby grand, as well as Alan White and Chris Squire.
After that, the intimacy and specialness of that tour, I thought, why should I go back to the big bashing concerts in the USA? When Jon Anderson got sick, to be replaced by Benoit David, my heart broke. I know, Jon Anderson was not on Drama, and I quite liked that album. I listened to a few of the concerts with this new, Canadian singer, and I just couldn’t warm up to it
However, they came out with a new album, Fly From Here (2011), based on a revitalised composition from the Drama days. Trevor Horn produced, and Geoff Downes returned, and young Benoit David sounded like the perfect voice for this album. I was warming to the new line-up, and then came the best news of all:
They were coming to Australia, again!
As we arranged flights, hotels, tickets and transportation, we listened to the new album, getting ready for “Jon Anderson’s replacement.” And while Jon Anderson is an elflike man, his shoes are big to fill. His voice is clear and spot on pitch, with control and soaring melodies – the very centre of the band. Remember, I am a huge Jon Anderson fan.
Then we heard, Benoit David was sick in Europe; he was flying home to Canada, and would not be returning for at least six months, if ever. And we, the Australians, would trial a still another new singer, Jon Davison. But all of the research we could do on Glass Hammer didn’t prepare us for what we got in Melbourne.
Which gets me to the point. I have soaked in 32 different Yes shows with at least a dozen different members in the band over time. The albums I love have easily twice that many members and ex members involved. Yes are not “that band from the 70’s,” Yes are an ever evolving, “ever opening flower.” It may not be the Yes you remember from last time – but let me tell you – the band is still playing, the music still sways and rocks the halls, and the new singer? He’s terrific! I miss Jon Anderson, but I welcome Jon Davison with open arms with the talent and blissful ability he brings to the audience. And if the band is having fun while they play, then I am too.
I’ll see them again at the Sydney State Theatre tomorrow night, and I hope and pray that I get to see them again and again and again.