I recently noticed that a new Yes concert DVD was being advertised for pre-order on Amazon.com, titled "The Revealing Science of God". The synopsis read "this DVD features performances by Yes that were filmed for television in 1998", and the front cover art touted it as being an "Official TV Broadcast". I immediately knew that this must be the same show that most Yes collectors know as "Live in Budapest", a concert which has circulated among fans for years as a VHS bootleg of poor to decent quality - depending on how far up down the generation scale your copy was. With an impressive track listing, a 155 minute running time, and an energetic performance from the late 90's line-up of Chris Squire, Jon Anderson, Steve Howe, Billy Sherwood, Igor Khoroshev and Alan White - I went ahead and ordered the DVD, psyched to finally see an "official" release of this concert from the TV master tapes. I had always wanted to see this concert in the sort of optimum audio and video quality that people watching the original TV broadcast in 1998 would have experienced...However, I'm sad to say that that is not what you'll find on this shoddily-produced, unauthorized DVD.
The picture quality looks like a 2nd or 3rd generation VHS bootleg - in fact, some of the VHS copies that sold at record shows 10 years ago had a less washed-out look than the picture found here. Sound wise it's a little better, perhaps comparable to a good cassette soundboard recording - except that there are some quick audio dropouts and glitches during several songs, as well as what could best be described as a few 'skips' where a second or two of music is missing. (The first time this happens is on "And You And I" and it's very obvious.)
Though this DVD, as previously noted, is packaged as an "Official TV Broadcast", this is obviously NOT an official, professional release from the TV master tapes, and is certainly not authorized by Yes (who have, as of this writing, made no mention at all of this DVD on their official website.) I could swear at times that this DVD was, in fact, "mastered" from a dusty old VHS tape that was dragged out of some collector's closet. As a point of reference, if you've seen any of the clips from the Budapest show which have been posted on YouTube for the last several years years (including "Open Your Eyes", "Wondrous Stories" & "Siberian Khatru"), I can tell you that the DVD quality here is only marginally better than those blurry, grainy clips.
One dead giveaway that this is an unauthorized product is that there is not any music copyright info anywhere on the packaging. If you look at any other Yes DVD, or any commercially released music DVD for that matter, there will always be at least some kind of copyright info for the songs somewhere in the packaging - good luck finding it here! And speaking of the packaging, the front cover features only the familiar Yes logo and the title, while the back cover has four small band pictures - two of Jon Anderson and two of Billy Sherwood (with Alan White in the background of one). So, were Squire, Howe & Khoroshev not part of the show, too? Some of the most shoddy packaging I've ever seen! It's not even clear who released this DVD. The actual DVD packaging lists the label as XXL Media - a company for which I could not even find an official website. On Amazon the label is listed as IMV Blueline - a company who have put out other music DVDs which have been criticized for their poor audio/video quality (including titles by Skid Row, Alice Cooper & White Lion). Lastly, the order slip from Amazon listed the label as "Montreux Books & Music"... So, why all the confusion over who is actually responsible for this deceptively packaged rip-off? I don't know, but maybe "Fly By Night Productions" might be a better brand-name for any future releases they are planning.
Mind you, my criticism of the DVD quality is not a reflection of the concert itself. The performance of the band, the set list and the staging is all quiet excellent - as they were when I attended a show on the American leg of this same tour. In my opinion, this line-up of Yes has been highly underrated by many fans - and that's part of the problem with a release such as this. Here we have a concert that deserves a proper commercial release - and by that, I mean one where some care is taken to present the music in the best way possible, and to preserve all these excellent performances with the best audio and video quality available. Fans should be able to truly enjoy the small nuances in Squire's bass playing, or get a better view of Howe's fingers flying across the fretboard during a solo, or listen attentively to the different phrasings that Khoroshev brought to keyboard parts original played by Rick Wakeman or Tony Kaye. It's small-but-important moments like these that get lost on this carelessly presented DVD - and it's these small-but-important moments that, for me, have always made Yes a cut above most of their competition.
All in all, I can't really recommend this one unless you are a completist, bootlegt colllector, or are looking to replace your old, worn-out VHS tape of this show. If you want to hear/see this same Yes line-up presented with a lot more care, check out the officially-released "House of Yes" DVD from 1999.
Reviewed by Jeff Matheus on May 24th, 2011