As a huge Yes fan I was overjoyed when I read the announcement on YesWorld.com about the release of the Yes Union Live show on DVD. I was even more thrilled when I read that a special limited edition deluxe box set would be released containing not one, but two DVDs and a double CD containing lots of extra footage and bonus audio material. When this box set was finally available for ordering, it took an other three weeks for the package to arrive at my place. Those were a long three weeks, I can tell you that. 🙂
With so much material to watch and listen to it took me a while to come up with a review. Enough with the introduction. Let’s dive in!
DVD 1: The Main Course
I will start with the juicy bit: the DVDs. The first DVD contains a two hour show that was recorded on August 8th 1991 at the Shoreline Amphitheatre in Mountain View, California. Initially this show was released on VHS, but only in Japan and later on LaserDisc. The recording has been remastered for this DVD release.
During the Union Tour, Yes did quite a lot of shows on a round stage that was placed in the center of the venue. Unfortunately this show is not one of those. This show was a seated one where the band played on a regular stage. Parts of the stage where elevated so that both drummers and both keyboard players could be watched easily. This looks pretty cool nevertheless; the stage is big and of course there is a lot happening with eight musicians on stage.
Considering the original recording was released on VHS first, the video quality of the first DVD is okay but it is not superb. The screen format is 4:3. (No wide-screen unfortunately.) They took the effort to include a 5.1 mix of the concert audio, but the mix is quite soft and not that great either. It does not add much to the atmosphere to be honest. Therefore I prefer listening to the stereo mix.
Overall the show is very enjoyable to watch. (This is from the perspective of a fan, mind you.) It is great to see all the guys playing the classic Yes songs from the seventies and eighties like “Heart of the Sunrise”, “Owner of a Lonely Heart”, “Yours Is No Disgrace”, “Roundabout”, and my favorite from the show: “Awaken”. Having two of almost every instrument available makes the sound of the band very rich. Also the vocals department is top-notch with Jon Anderson backed by Chris Squire, Trevor Rabin and Steve Howe. These four voices blend very well together and the vocal performance of all four singers is great.
One point of criticism I have about the show is the abundance of solo spots that has been included. I count four of them (Howe, Rabin, Wakeman and Squire), totaling about 30 minutes, which is a quarter of the video. This is not including the regular, sometimes lengthy solos in the songs themselves. Not that I am against solo spots, but my feeling with this show is that it is a bit too much. Especially when you consider that some great songs were sacrificed and not included in the video, like the beautiful “And You And I”, “Long Distance Runaround”, “Changes” and “Shock to the System”. A couple of these songs are added as bonus audio tracks on the second DVD, but it would have been much cooler if they were included in the show on the first DVD.
DVD 2: The Bonus Material
The second DVD contains a lot of bonus material. And I really mean a lot! Most of the second disc is taken up by two bootleg videos, each presenting a full show of the Union Tour. The first one was shot at the McNichols Arena in Denver and clocks in at nearly 2 hours and 45 minutes. The show was shot by multiple cameras and the audio sounds like an audience mix that was taken directly from the sound board.
The image of the video is of bootleg quality but still fairly watchable and looking professional with the multiple camera setup. The audio is surprisingly good though. It’s quite raw, but it is very enjoyable. I bet that a lot of the fans will even prefer this bootleg over the main course on the first DVD. I am still in doubt, but maybe I will too in the future when I have watched it more often. Time will tell…!
The second bootleg, which lasts nearly three hours, was recorded at Pensacola Civic Center in (you guessed it:) Pensacola. This video was audience shot and again multiple cameras were used to shoot the show. Because this is an audience recording, image and audio quality are not as good as the Denver bootleg. Video is shaky because of the use of hand cameras. Audio is surely of bootleg quality with lots of cheering, whistling and audience noise, although it does not get really annoying. The band performance can still be enjoyed fairly well.
The second DVD is concluded with bonus audio tracks taken from a couple of different shows from the Union Tour. Some of them are mixed in stereo and some in 5.1 surround sound. Tracks include “Shock to the System”, “And You And I”, “Lift Me Up”, “Drum Duet” and “Changes”.
The Audio CDs
Apart from the DVDs, the special edition box set contains two CDs with the audio from the show on the first DVD. Sound quality of the CDs can be compared with the stereo tracks of the DVD. Again, the audio tracks that are included as bonus tracks on the second DVD are not available on the CDs. A missed chance in my opinion. It may not be possible to fit all of the bonus tracks on the two CDs because you are limited to 2.5 hours of playtime, but I would surely have loved it if they had included the classic “And You And I” and “Changes”.
The Yes Union Live deluxe edition box set is an amazing document of the Union Tour that united nearly every band member from the seventies and eighties renditions of the band on stage. The main show on the first DVD and audio CDs is very nice, though I suspect that die-hard Yes fans will probably have a lot more fun with the bootleg videos on the second DVD, which last 15 minutes short of six hours. This makes the box set a must-have item in the collection of any big-time Yes fan.
If you are less of a die-hard fan, you may want to consider waiting for the DVD-only or CD-only releases, or even skip this release all together and get one of the higher quality DVD releases like the Symphonic Live DVD, Songs from Tsongas DVD or House of Yes, Live from the House of Blues.
Excerpts of the show on the first DVD can be viewed below:
Yours Is No Disgrace #1
Owner of a Lonely Heart
Your Move/All Good People
Yours Is No Disgrace #2
Heart of the Sunrise #1
Heart of the Sunrise #2