The Royal Affair Tour | July 27, 2019 | FivePoint Amphitheatre | Irvine, CA – Concert Review & Photo Gallery


Review & Photos by Charlie Steffens

Some of progressive rock’s most revered performers — Yes, Asia, John Lodge, and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy — joined an enthusiastic crowd of their fans for the Southern California stop of The Royal Affair Tour.

Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy, a trio paying homage to Emerson, Lake & Palmer members Greg Lake and Keith Emerson, opened the show as people were still showing up (as is typical on a sunny Saturday, the freeway to the venue was loaded with summer traffic). In addition to drummer Carl Palmer, ELP Legacy features guitarist Paul Bielatowicz and bassist David Pastorious.

Classic Emerson Lake & Palmer songs such as “Karn Evil 9” and “Knife-Edge” sounded true to form in the instrumentation, adding a nuance here and there. Guest singer Arthur Brown (The Crazy World of Arthur Brown) at 77 years old added crowd-pleasing levity to the set, performing his 1968 hit “Fire,” which Palmer appeared on. Amazingly fit for a rocker in his late 60s, Palmer’s extraordinary drumming was showcased throughout the set, notably in the last song, “Fanfare For The Common Man.”

The Moody Blues’ longstanding member John Lodge, who was in good voice, played bass on a string of Moody’s songs like “Legend Of A Mind,” “Gemini Dream,” and “I’m Just A Singer (In A Rock and Roll Band)”, sharing the music he has performed for over 50 years.

Lodge was joined by Yes singer Jon Davison for “Ride My See-Saw,” amid a cheering audience, many of whom were on their feet dancing and singing along. The 1968 Moody Blues smash hit proved its timeless magic with the crowd, ending the set on a high note.

At sundown, Asia came onstage, welcomed by the applauding three-generation audience. Original Asia members Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes were joined by Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal on guitar and lead vocals, with Billy Sherwood on bass and backing vocals. Downes and Sherwood had been pulling double-duty with both Yes and Asia on this tour. Palmer was multi-tasking as well, but didn’t falter whatsoever.

The band’s set sounded top-notch instrumentally, but you couldn’t get around the fact that John Wetton’s distinct voice was missing from the equation (a co-founding member of Asia, he died in 2017). A couple of songs deep into the set, Downes took the mic and cited the origin of “Video Killed The Radio Star” from his former band the Buggles. There may have been hundreds in the audience who didn’t know that the song was the first video ever played by MTV in 1981 — until Downes told the story.

The excitement spiked as Yes’ Steve Howe got onstage for “Wildest Dreams.” This was the moment when the Asia set really got started. Howe took guitar duties while Thal set his axe aside, putting his focus into belting out the lead vocals. The loud, brooding intro of “Sole Survivor” was enthralling — a memorable Royal Affair moment with Downes, Howe, and Palmer all together playing the 1982 classic. “Only Time Will Tell,” an even bigger hit in the commercial sense, followed and “Heat Of The Moment” closed the set to cheers.

Yes opened their set grandly with “No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed” before tearing into “Tempus Fugit,” a track from 1979’s Drama album. Singer Jon Davison, who has been with Yes since 2012, looked relaxed and sounded more confident than in previous outings with the band. Several times, a faint-sounding “He sounds just like Jon Anderson” could be overheard from the crowd.

While there are only two longstanding Yes members (Steve Howe and Alan White) in the current lineup, the complex songs, spanning every era of the band’s career, were played particularly well. For Yes fans — unless you had taken a peek at a set list of a previous show on this tour to see what you were going to hear ahead of time — this varied set had some surprises in store.

Bathed in the spotlight, Howe played “The Clap,” his remarkable acoustic guitar instrumental from The Yes Album. Drummer Jay Schellen filled in for White at certain points of the show, performing his duties deftly, while staying low key. A surrealistic vibe loomed over the crowd during “The Gates Of Delirium” as Downes and Howe displayed their mastery.

For the encore, Lodge returned the stage to sing John Lennon’s “Imagine” with Davison. White, who had played drums on the original 1971 “Imagine,” also played and stuck around for “Roundabout” and “Starship Trooper,” where Yes proved again that they are, after all these years, still the kings of progressive rock.

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