The Nice & Yes Sunderland Empire 1st February 1970

The Nice & Yes Sunderland Empire 1st February 1970TheNice This was one of the first concerts that I attended, and as a thirteen year old who was just getting into music, it was a pretty big deal for me. This was the second time I had seen Yes, the first time being as support for the Bonzo Dog Doo Dah Band at the same venue the year before. I think there may have been two shows that evening, as was often the case back in those days. If that was the case, being a young kid, I would have attended the early show. The Yes line-up at the time was Jon Anderson: vocals, Peter Banks: guitar, Chris Squire: bass, Tony Kaye: organ, and Bill Bruford: drums. They playing material from their second album “Time and a Word” and the set included the excellent “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” (a cover of a Richie Havens song, with a swirling Hammond organ intro taken from the film “The Big Country”), “Then”, “Sweet Dreams” (which was an early single and has featured in their set off and on to this day), “Astral Traveller”. There was an acoustic part to their set which featured the track “Time and a Word”. Yes were one of my favourite bands at the time, largely as a result of seeing these performances at the Empire, which seemed so fresh, sharp and exciting at the time.
NICEThe Nice were virtuoso Keith Emerson: organ, Brian Davison: drums, and Lee Jackson: vocals, and bass. They had just released the album “Five Bridges Suite” and played the Suite in its entirety. The work was commissioned for the Newcastle Arts Festival in 1969, and refers to the city’s five bridges over the River Tyne. I recall Lee Jackson, himself a Geordie, making great play of the local aspects of the work. The album cover features a picture of the Tyne Bridge, and the five movements, which the Nice played that night are: Fantasia, Second Bridge, Chorale, High Level Fugue and Finale. I think they also played their moving interpretation of Tim Hardin’s “Hang onto a Dream”, “Rondo”, and “America”; the latter two songs being showcased for Emerson’s organ playing. Keith Emerson was sensational, pulling his Hammond organ about the stage, stabbing it with daggers, and generally being an amazing showman. The picture on the front of my programme, shown above, sort of sums it up. A great gig by two important and influential bands, which sticks in my mind to this day.

Many thanks to Gerry Rogerson for allowing me to use his photograph which brings back happy memories!

7 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Mitch on December 24, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Excellent blog Peter.
    I wasn’t there but I remember the gig.
    Two great bands.


  2. Posted by dawn on January 24, 2014 at 11:19 pm

    What a great gig to have been at


  3. Posted by Bill Aitken on September 4, 2014 at 7:27 pm

    First gig I ever went to (not counting variety shows in Blackpool with my nana!) I was 14. What a first gig. In the same year I saw Taste, the Keef Hartley Band and Jethro Tull at the Empire. What a time for seeing bands!


  4. Posted by Dave Bell now exiled to Milton Keynes on February 13, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    I was at the Empire only to see the Nice, the one prog rock band I loved; played all the LPs to death, and couldn’t really follow Keith to ELP. Incidentally, apart from earlier pantos the only shows I can remember seeing at the Empire are Zefferelli’s Romeo and Juliet film, with Olivia Hussey – the biggest tear-fest I ever witnessed at the death scene, and at the other end of the spectrum – Spike Milligan’s “play” the Bed-Sitting Room.


  5. Posted by Stewart Saint on February 5, 2021 at 2:50 pm

    I was at that show and I’m pretty sure there was only one show. As we got there on the train from Hartlepool at about 7pm and went for an illegal pint. My old man picked us up as we could not guarantee getting the last train. It was an excellent concert and I went to see the Nice but was mightily impressed with Yes as well. I got that programme signed by all 3 Nice members [finally] when they did their reunion tours about 17/18 years ago. Their long time road manager noticed us looking at my Nice and ELP memorabilia in the theatre coffee bar. He asked if he could borrow my bag full of stuff as he reckoned the band would love to see them. He arranged for us to meet them and Keith was so friendly as were Brian and Lee.


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