YES, ASIA, John Lodge and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy delivered a night of outstanding progressive rock. The oppressive heat kept some people from attending YES: The Royal Affair Tour so Toyota Music Factory moved everyone inside and cranked up the air conditioning. It kept the fans cool until the music started and heated up the venue. A stellar lineup began with Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy and the band sent the audience into a progressive rock frenzy that lasted all night. Palmer, always rated as one of the top drummers in music history, put together spectacular musicians who loved keeping the ELP sound alive.
Palmer recruited the inimitable Arthur Brown as vocalist and he continued his tradition of face paint and clothes that defied explanation. Starting with “Karn Evil 9:First Impression, Part 2,” Brown and Palmer worked the crowd and it ended with a thunderous ovation. Carl stepped out from behind the drums between songs to tell a story that made each tune more meaningful. The instrumental, “Hoedown,” was a terrific jam as the old-school drummer rocked the kit.
Brown came back out with black wings for “Knife Edge” as guitarist Paul Bielatowicz and bassist David Pastorious led the charge. Palmer told of joining Brown’s band at age 18 and Brown then stirred the crowd when he screamed, “I am the God of hellfire” to begin “Fire.” Palmer was in the spotlight as he soloed during “Fanfare For The Common Man” for several minutes and performed his infamous drumstick balancing trick. The band got a well-deserved standing ovation to end their tremendous set.
The stage was pre-set for quick changeovers and John Lodge of The Moody Blues immediately came out. Celebrating his birthday, Lodge began with “Stepping In a Slide Zone” and was complemented by a cello, keyboards, drums and guitar. The beautiful song was followed by “Saved By The Music” with its orchestral beginning seguing into classic rock and roll. Lodge was still in fine voice as he transitioned into “Legend Of a Mind.” The fan favorite contained a long instrumental in the middle surrounded by outstanding lyrics.
The classic rock continued with great blended harmony for “Gemini Dream” to continue the singalong from long-time fans. The crowd erupted at the first notes of “Isn’t Life Strange” as the audience sang every word. The band jammed for several minutes to earn a standing ovation.
People in the venue bobbed their heads, stomped their feet and played air guitar for “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock And Roll Band),” easily one of the greatest rock songs ever and one that should be played more on classic rock stations. Fans would have grooved to it all night long, but they managed to squeeze in one more song. Jon Davidson of YES came out to join Lodge for an amped-up version of “Ride My See-Saw.” The rockers jammed again to finish their set and the loyal crowd went crazy.
ASIA quickly took the stage with vocalist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on 12-string guitar to begin their set with “Go.” Thal was very expressive onstage, moving fluidly, on the lyrical “Don’t Cry” while keyboardist Geoff Downes poured out superb tones. Drummer Carl Palmer was back for double duty and was outstanding, as always. Telling how Downes was once a member of The Buggles, they were obliged to play the first song ever shown on MTV – “Radio Killed The Video Star” – while the early video was played on the screen behind them.
In memory of former singer John Wetton, a somber “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” captured the crowd with home movies playing in the background. Downes did an amazing job on keys during “Lucky Man” and the fan favorite was not lost on the audience members who were reliving the glory days of Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Downes kept the musical theme alive with a long solo as former ASIA guitarist Steve Howe came out to finish the set with his former bandmates. He and Palmer highlighted “Wildest Dreams.”
Bumblefoot roamed the stage during Howe’s scintillating solo in “Sole Survivor.” The distinctive first sounds of “Only Time Will Tell” put the crowd on their feet to sway back and forth while bassist Billy Sherwood laid a terrific backbeat to their hit song. Finishing with their biggest hit, everyone in the band soloed then joined together for a jam session during “Heat Of The Moment.” The audience stomped and sang along to the song that ended their set.
A final changeover brought out YES with no introduction. Jon Davidson was in excellent voice for “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed,” an oldie off their first album.
The fans responded loudly for “Tempus Fugit,” one of the songs that defined the progressive rock sound of the time. The band and crowd kept up the energy for “Going For The One.” The audience raised the decibel level as soon as they heard “I’ve Seen All Good People” and sang along with the extended refrain after Howe’s riff. The band’s harmony showed why it has been one of their biggest songs. Everyone left the stage except Howe as he played “Second Initial” on an acoustic guitar under a spotlight as fans marveled as his mastery of the instrument.
Billy Sherwood strummed an intriguing bass intro to “Siberian Khatru” while Downes stood between two keyboards and played both together. Howe switched between electric and steel guitar and played to the crowd. The lighting engineer used his talents to create a mood that complemented the song perfectly.
Dedicating “Onward” to the late Chris Squire was a somber moment as the beautiful lyrics were accompanied by Howe on mandolin before changing to electric. Original Drummer Allan White replaced Jay Schellen for the extended version of “America” with a long instrumental lead-in. Finishing their time was a 22-minute version of “The Gates Of Delirium” with Howe spending most of the time showing why he is considered a guitar virtuoso. Everyone played a solo as they thanked the crowd and left the stage.
Rhythmic clapping brought them out again for a three-song encore. Telling how White played with John Lennon on the album Imagine, they played the single of the same name.
In typical YES style, they made the song their own, yet managed to stay true to the original. Playing a single note sent the crown into a frenzy as it was the familiar beginning of “Roundabout.” Fans rushed to the front of the stage, yelled, clapped and sang it word for word. It sounded as fresh as when it was new and would still be a hit song if released today.
They ended the night with “Starship Trooper” with everyone getting solos and then jamming together. They played up to the crowd and left the stage after bowing and showing their appreciation to the fans that made them a supergroup.
The four and a half hour concert, with YES playing two of them, ended too soon, but the crowd was spent after the emotion of the evening. The lighting and sound was superb as they made great music look and sound even better. The tour continues this summer, so catch it when it comes to your area.
LIVE IMAGES: GUZPIX
LIVE WORDS: DAVID SIMERS