Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Patrick Moraz Live With Yes - 1974

Last week I received my copy of Yes Live at QPR (stands for Queens Park Rangers, for those of you who don’t follow English football). I have to say, it was both surprising and very satisfying. In my earlier post on Moraz and his double-keyboard Minimoog, I talked about how I was a teenager when Relayer came out. 35 years ago and that album still resonates with me, those silky smooth synth lines, which at the time and in fact only until just recently seemed rather mysterious since I had no idea what he used to produce them. A few weeks ago I found out he played Minimoogs. Once I knew that, I had to see video of him live, which is where YouTube is your friend. Many of those videos were from the DVD of the QPR show, so after a bit of searching I went out and bought it.

So, a couple of observations. One is that the DVD does not have the entire show. There’s a separate DVD of part two of the show, but I don’t have it yet. Two is that it’s not an official release. I’m not quite sure if it’s 100% bootleg, but it’s also not quite official either. There were more than a few sound quality issues with the recording, which a Wikipedia article claims were actual problems with the sound at the show. It sounded a little implausible to me, but after reading a number of reviews of the two DVDs on Amazon, there apparently were sound issues and it’s not just a poor recording. The reviews of the second disc say the sound got much better at that point, though. So if you’re looking for a flawless recording, this ain’t it, but if you’re looking for documentation of a great show and can deal with some sound quality issues in the first half, this is definitely for you.

But aside from all that, what I really wanted to talk about was the show. Even all these years later, all the way back from 1974, it’s a standout. One of the biggest surprises for me, actually, was that Jon Anderson played electric guitar for much of the show, as well as a bit of drums. Looking back on it with 20/20 hindsight, there’s of course no way they could have played Gates of Delirium without that extra guitar. I was honestly quite impressed. Anderson did a fine job adding a rhythm guitar to the song, and that allowed Steve Howe to have the freedom to let loose and play. It would have been a much harder job to recreate such a complex and involved song without Anderson’s help (and besides, it kind of gave him something to do through all those long instrumental passages). I’ve seen Anderson play, uh, somewhat cheesy acoustic folky guitar at any number of Yes shows over the years, but to see him A) play electric and B) actually really play it was darn impressive.

Perhaps, though, the most amusing aspect of the show was Chris Squire’s poodle boots (barely visible as an odd puffiness as Moraz crosses behind Squire). Now, it’s probably not fair to criticize 1974 fashions 35 years down the road, but still...To compensate for any hurt feelings my statement may bring up, I have to say that Squire’s Doctor Who-style coat was pretty cool. So Chris, if you’re reading this, please, no hard feelings about the boot thing, OK?

As far as equipment goes, Moraz had four Minimoogs. Two of those were “regular” ones, although one was black, and the other two were in his custom-made double-Mini. He also had an organ, with a Fender-Rhodes on top of the organ and one of his Moogs on top of that. That was on his right if he were facing the audience. On his left was a Mellotron and the double Minimoog. In front of him was the black Mini. Behind him I believe was a Clavinet, but I don’t recall him playing it in the video so I’m not sure. He also had a grand piano on the other end of the stage as well. Lastly, it looked like Alan White also had a Minimoog, but I didn’t see that one get played either so I’m not sure what he was doing with it.

I’ve seen Moraz live a few times, playing acoustic piano with Bill Bruford at the Bottom Line in New York City. It was a real treat, though, to see him go wild on a pile of synths, even if it was only on DVD.

Photos are single frames from the Yes Live at QPR Part 1 DVD.


Massdream Music said...

I've had this show on VHS (on 2 tapes) for a long time. I can confirm that the sound did improve in the second half of the show.

Seth Elgart said...

I just today at work received the DVD of the second part of the show. I can't wait to head home to give it a listen. (And thanks for the comment, too.)