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Audience precipitation 

Yes weathers the storms of changing trends

Chastain Park, Aug. 18 -- Arguably the finest and most universally accepted of the progressive rock movement, Yes continues to defy demographics and trends. A healthy cross-section of humanity, including quite a few children, filled the stonewalled amphitheater to witness the return of Yes to Atlanta.

Originally advertised as a live shoot for release on DVD, the show wasn't filmed. But the gathered mass didn't mind. They merely weathered a drenching rainstorm that hit just as the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra began its opening overture. Rather than a sappy suite of Yes' greatest hits, the ASO worked up a billowing version of "Give Love Each Day" from the forthcoming Yes album Magnification. Joined by Yes' touring keyboardist Tom Brislin, the orchestra played with restraint as rain soaked the park.

Heralded by a dazzling light animation, the members of Yes strolled out and played along as the orchestra seemed to gain momentum from the aging rockers' presence. Real rain replaced the sound-effect droplets originally heard on "Close to the Edge," from the fifth Yes album, released 29 years ago. When frontman Jon Anderson stepped up to sing, the anticipation of his followers was palpable. His elfin voice, helium-high and otherworldly, is a defining touch of Yes' spacey and majestic sound.

"It's raining, it's warm, it must be Atlanta, " said Anderson just before "Long Distance Run Around." The 1972 song featured muscular string accents courtesy of the ASO and energetic playing by bassist Chris Squire, on the same Rickenbacker bass he's manned his entire career. Remarkably, the new material, though plagued by rumbling feedback that popped up throughout the gig, held the crowd's interest. During the show's first hour, fans bought all the available copies of a special EP featuring two new songs ("Don't Go" and "In the Presence Of"), which the band also performed.

Part of the attraction of their current tour is the fact that Yes hasn't performed with a symphony in 31 years. The stellar ASO accentuated Yes with great success on the War and Peace-inspired epic "The Gates Of Delirium." The normally talkative crowd actively listened, and conversations actually ceased. However, when the band and orchestra exited the stage to feature Steve Howe's beautifully understated solo instrumental, the guitarist was nearly drowned out by excessive chatter.

The momentum of the set returned during a joyous reading of "And You and I." Ranging from a soft, introspective English folk mood to majestic monoliths of sounds within each instrumental break, the song remains a great model of the Yes formula in action.

A dramatic highlight was the thundering "Ritual" from the 1974 concept album Tales of Topographic Oceans, with Squire and Anderson hammering on percussion along with veteran drummer Alan White. During main set closer, "Seen All Good People," Anderson references the drummer's historic past when he sings "Send an 'Instant Karma' to me" (White played drums on the classic John Lennon tune).

Man within nature is often the subject of Yes' music, thus wet and humid Chastain proved the perfect place to present many of the band's three-decade-old pieces. And, just as water imagery floats through their dense soundscapes, Yes' buoyant audience continues to roll with the changing tides -- rather like Squire's mighty bass lines in final encore "Roundabout" -- as lesser waves of musical fads wash away.

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