The Royal Affair Tour
July 27th, 2019 - FivePoint Amphitheater, Irvine, California
Review by James West, The-Rocker.com
Photos by Danette West, TheRockerChic.com
The Prog Rock Gods blessed Five Point Amphitheater in Irvine, Ca recently with what truly was “The Royal Affair” for all to witness!
For those of you who know me personally know that I am mostly a “classic rock” kind of guy who likes to write mostly about bands like Zeppelin, Sabbath, and Kiss. In reality, the only “progressive” type rock bands that I really got into in the 70s were bands like Rush, and…. Rush, and…. Oh, and then there was this band called Rush….
Don’t get me wrong. During the 70s and 80s I did enjoy songs like Roundabout, Ride My See-Saw and Heat Of The Moment, but they didn’t have that “Hard Rock” heaviness that I craved and still crave to this day. So, this evening would prove to be both an eye-opener as well as an ear-opener for me in more ways than one, starting with Carl Palmer.
I AM THE GOD OF HELLFIRE!
I didn’t really know what to expect from the “opening act”, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy, especially with two-thirds of Emerson Lake and Palmer gone (RIP Keith Emerson and Greg Lake). But thanks to Carl, they will definitely not be forgotten with the incredible ensemble of musical talent he brought on stage with him that night.
I am the God of Hellfire, and I bring you… Arthur Brown? Yes, what better way to start The Royal Affair off than in the crazy world of Arthur Brown with Carl Palmer. Carl later commented, “Arthur brought me over and had me play drums on “Fire” and the next thing you know, we had a number one hit record; by they way, I’m still waiting on the second one!”
Arthur was the perfect catalyst for Carl’s uniquely talented trio of talent that evening, with Palmer of course on drums, David Pastorius, the nephew of world-renowned American jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, on bass, and Paul Bielatowicz, who has recorded with both Carl Palmer and Neal Morse, on guitar.
I was immediately impressed by the guitar fireworks of Bielatowicz, who hammered out great riffs but also delivered Keith Emerson’s keyboard parts on the guitar with great precision as well. That’s not an easy task to achieve; after all it’s Keith Emerson’s parts we’re talking about here! Plus, Paul made for great photos too as he displayed his passion for playing with cool poses and expressions! His playing and personality is similar to that of Reb Beach of Winger and Whitesnake.
Pastorius made his uncle Jaco proud and laid down some really great bass grooves. And let me tell you, the 69-year-old Palmer can still out-drum most rock percussionists out there today.
Carl’s band delivered a blistering set of five classics, including Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression Part 2, Fanfare For The Common Man, and of course, Fire! Maybe it was because the songs were “rocked up”, but I really enjoyed this opening set of The Royal Affair!
Ride My See-Saw!
Within minutes The Moody Blues’ John Lodge then came out and kept things going at a blistering pace with great classics like “I’m Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band” and “Ride My See-Saw”.
John was joined onstage by Alan Hewitt on keyboards, Billy Ashbaugh on drums, Duffy King on Guitars, and John Charboneau on cello. John still has a wonderful voice and great stage presence. I just wished they would have played more Moody hits like Tuesday Afternoon and Nights In White Satin.
It’s funny that I wanted to hear more hits from these progressive rock bands, as at most classic rock concerts that I attend I usually want to hear more of the album cuts instead of the overplayed hits. In many circumstances, the hits aren’t necessarily the best songs on an album. The same is probably true with progressive albums, and I’m sure devoted followers were eating up the deep album tracks!
The Heat Of The Moment
Carl Palmer came back out for round two and played drums with his other band Asia, which featured Geoff Downes (yes, “video killed the radio star” Geoff Downes) on keyboards, Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal, who has played with Guns N Roses, Art Of Anarchy, and Sons Of Apollo, on guitar and lead vocals (who’d have thought this?), Billy Sherwood on bass, and Steve Howe, who played guitar on a few tracks.
I’d like to point out that replacing or filling in for an original member in any band can be a career-ender for some musicians and singers, especially in the Progressive Rock category. The devoted fans of this genre are hardcore in their knowledge of the music, especially in keeping up with all the time changes and overtures involved.
To put it politely, you better be on the top of your progressive game to stay in the game for very long without being booed or ridiculed off the stage with your tail between your legs. So, to say I was little worried about Bumblefoot fronting Asia is an understatement.
But, I was pleasantly surprised at Ron’s ability to adapt to this genre. He was on-point both guitar-wise and vocally with Asia. Ron has a unique stage presence as well. You could barely keep your eyes off him and what he was doing, whether playing his cool-ass double-neck guitar or singing spot-on vocals with a very soulful delivery.
I was very impressed with the justice he gave to John Wetton’s lyrics and the respectful nature he portrayed, especially when Steve Howe joined him and the rest of the band onstage for spirited performances of Soul Survivor, Only Time Will Tell, Heat Of The Moment, and others. It was also cool that they performed Downes’ “Video Killed The Radio Star” and ELP’s “Lucky Man”.
The Rocker Chic commented that she liked Asia’s throwback to the 80’s setlist the best and was impressed at Thral’s vocal range. At times he even sounded like Brad Roberts from the Crash Test Dummies on the song “Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm”!
It's Roundabout Time!
After a great performance from Asia the day had darkened enough for the cool lights and visual screen effects to push the main act’s performance up a notch. Not that Yes needs a shove or anything; the band is still at the top of their performance game as their setlist showed. From Richie Havens’ “No Opportunity Necessary No Experience Needed” through the main set closer “The Gates Of Delirium” (which clocked in at over 22 minutes), Yes proved they weren’t “Fragile” at this stage of their career.
Current members Jon Davison on lead vocals, Billy Sherwood on bass, Geoff Downes on keyboards, Jay Schellen on drums, and Steve Howe on guitars all performed with high proficiency during their Royal Affair performance, with original drummer Alan White also joining them on drums throughout the set.
I kept thinking to myself, ‘if only I would have seen this group with original members Chris Squire and Jon Anderson back in the day, would I have become a full-fledged progressive rocker?’ I still don’t think so; I would miss my Van Halen’s and Aerosmith’s too much I believe!
Still, I was mesmerized by how well these 70-year-olds could still hit their mark and keep pace with the constant segue changes. Hell, I’m 55 and can’t even remember where I put my shoes half the time! Steve Howe is truly a musician’s musician and was fun to watch with both Asia and with Yes; although, I would have liked “Roundabout” to have had a little more punch to it.
Another great surprise was the performance of Jon Davison on vocals. Somehow, he was able to hit those high John Anderson vocals with ease, plus he was very respectful of Steve and the other veteran members’ space during their performance. The Rocker Chic commented on how much he sounded and looked like a young version of Geddy Lee of Rush!
In summary I feel that “The Royal Affair” felt almost like a progressive Woodstock happening than a rock and roll concert. I couldn’t believe how seamless it was for various superstars to intermingle with other superstars from other bands with the ultimate goal in celebrating the impact and legacy of progressive rock for generations to come. Not only that, but the evening also served as the ultimate tribute to those incredible progressive icons who are no longer with us.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a classic rocker, an alternative lover, or even a metalhead, you owe it to yourself to experience this great celebration of the Art that is Music!
SETLIST: JULY, 27, 2019
1. Steppin' In A Slide Zone
2. Saved By The Music
3. Legend Of The Mind
4. Gemini Dream
5. Isn't Life Strange
6. I'm Just A Singer (In A
Rock And Roll Band)
7. Ride My See-Saw
SETLIST: JULY, 27, 2019
2. Don't Cry
3. Video Killed The Radio Star
4. The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
5. Lucky Man
6. Wildest Dreams
7. Soul Survivor
8. Only Time Will Tell
9. Heat Of The Moment
SETLIST: JULY, 27, 2019
1. No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed
2. Tempus Fugit
3. Going For The One
4. I've Seen All Good People
6. Siberian Khatru
9. The Gates Of Delerium
12. Starship Trooper
SETLIST: JULY, 27, 2019
1. Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 2
5. Fanfare For The Common Man