I didn't know at the time I encountered them that they'd already broken up. I didn't know until recently that they'd broken up before their second album was even released, nor that they'd never even performed the songs from the second album live in concert. I just knew when I heard they were reconnecting for a concert tour that I had to be there, wherever there was. Fortunately, they came stateside and I found myself in the Orpheum Theatre in downtown L.A. on July 8 for their second concert in the USA on their Reconnected Tour.
So much of my teen angst growing up gay and Mormon in Utah was tied to the music of Yaz. Their music was so different from most in that time, sure it was synth pop, but it had soul. Most other bands of the era were cold, dark, or on the other extreme so very bubbly. Yaz had wound such a great contrast, the cool detachment of Vince Clarke's synth mixed with the warm, warm bluesy, soulful voice of Alison Moyet.
Vince Clarke founded Depeche Mode, but left because the other band members thumbed their noses at his song "Only You," which became one of Yaz's most tremendous musical moments. I can't imagine Dave Gahan singing "Only You," though. It was serendipitous, as Moyet captures the raw emotion of that song like no one else could. "Looking from a window above, it's like a story of love. Can you hear me?" I could hear Alison and it was like she could feel all the solicitude and solitude that came from being a gay Mormon teenager who was in love with his best friend who was hopelessly straight. "All I ever knew, only you."
I remember listening to songs like "Winter Kills," and "Mr. Blue" and aching with the pure agony of melancholy. Fortunately, while I still connect with the emotions these songs evoke, I no longer feel such intense pain. While I was a depressed, repressed teen, I've managed to grow into a singularly happy, successful adult.
And happily, Yaz wasn't just disconsolate, emotional tunes, they created some of the best dance hits of all time, which still get played in clubs worldwide even now.
So, I found myself at the Orpheum, wondering if Yaz would be as amazing live, whether they would sing the songs I wanted to hear. Moyet and Clarke did not disappoint. I was brought to tears at least 3 times during the concert. The first time was simply the moment Alison and Vince stepped on stage and began to perform "Nobody's Diary." I cried for that 16 year-old gay boy whose outlet was listening to Yaz and dancing. "For the time we had, I don't want to be a page in your diary, babe."
Again, I was brought to tears when the third song came up, "Mr. Blue," which was always one of the most emotional songs for me and comforted me when I was a lonely teenager. "I'm here to stay with you and no matter what you do, when you're lonely, I'll be lonely, too."
The rest of the concert was one of the best parties I've ever attended, like singing along with a crowd of your best friends to all your favorite songs. Yaz performed 21 songs (and they only ever released 23), so they sang nearly everything. The two songs they didn't perform were "Softly Over" and "And On," both songs from their second album "You and Me Both." I really think they should have gone ahead and performed all 23, but 21 songs is better than you get at a lot of concerts.
The final time I cried was during their first encore song, the song that started it all, the song Vince was willing to give up on Depeche Mode for. It makes me cry even now listening to it again: "Only You." And I cried because the party was nearly over.
Yaz left us upbeat with their crowd-enthusing dance hit, "Situation," the nine-minute 12" version. And we left the emotional roller coaster of an evening with Yaz on an emotional high.