I love Yes. I have all of their albums, even the ones the band would rather forget (here's looking at you, Talk). I saw them live in 1999, in support of their album The Ladder, and enjoyed it immensely. So I was excited to pop in this 2003 performance from the Montreux Jazz Festival, which featured the classic lineup of the band: Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Rick Wakeman, Chris Squire, and Alan White. Sadly, it seems that in the intervening four years, the band's energy level has waned considerably.
The group performs a combination of new material and old, but the wild energy of their youth are long gone. From the opening guitar of "Siberian Khatru," you can tell the band is playing more slowly, although perhaps with more precision. But the sound is of a band playing without enthusiasm. Perfunctory is a good word to describe their level of commitment.
The band is at their best on the new material, which they haven't played to death and thus have an enthusiasm for. Their performances on those are on such a higher level than on the more famous tracks that it makes the blander moments all the more disappointing. At no point is the band flat out bad, it's just that they're capable of doing so much better. I wish there was more to say, but there isn't. There are some incredible live recordings of Yes or its constituent band members out there. Albums like Yessongs or An Evening of Yes Music give the sense of excitement of seeing these musicians live, along with performances that equal or better the studio recordings. You get nothing of the sort with Live at Montreux 2003. It feels like the band doesn't even want to be there.
The songs performed during the show are as follows:
Don't Kill The Whale
In The Presence Of
We Have Heaven
South Side of the Sky
And You And I
To Be Over
Rick Wakeman Solo Medley
Heart of the Sunrise
Long Distance Runaround
I've Seen All Good People
The Blu-ray Disc:
Eagle Vision presents Yes: Live In Montreux 2003 in a 1.78:1, VC-1 encoded 1080p transfer. To my eyes, this appears to be the same transfer they used on the HD DVD release of this title. I found this transfer to be a general improvement over most concert HD footage I've seen, with a lot of detail and many close-up shots. However, at times the image does break-up or pixelate. Usually these are brief, but not so brief that they slide by without being noticed. Aside from the hiccups, the overall image was pleasant enough.
Eagle Vision offers three different audio tracks. The first is Dolby Digital Plus Stereo. The second is Dolby Digital Plus 5.1, and the third is DTS-HD, aka regular DTS. To my ears, the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 track was the best sounding, but none of them are great. Both the Dolby Digital and the DTS essentially spread the sound around evenly, without much directionality or finesse. Obviously the front speakers are louder than the back, but that's about the most subtlety you'll find here.
Nothing at all.
Yes: Live At Montreux 2003 is a poor record of a band that can, when the musicians exert themselves, be great. There are many excellent live recordings by the band that they've made throughout the years, but this isn't one of them. I wouldn't even recommend this to the most ardent Yes fans, because I'm one of them, and I was sorely disappointed by the phoned-in performances I saw on this disc. To top things off, the sound is mediocre, and there are no supplements. Skip It.
Daniel Hirshleifer is the High Definition Editor for DVD Talk.