Review By CRAIG HAMMONS
Happy hippies and purveyors of the fine art of rock music were in heaven the other night at Yestival, a celebration of all things prog rock.
The triple bill of Yes (Steve Howe’s version), Todd Rundgren and Carl Palmer has enough rock prog power to light up downtown Los Angeles.
The show started right on time at the Microsoft Theatre with Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy. The first thing that surprised me was there were no keyboards or synthesizers on stage. However, this would not matter as this power trio of guitarist extraordinaire Paul Bielatowicz and the eclectic bass man Simon Fitzpatrick brought shear passion and intensity to the complexity of the songs that we were about to hear.
They started with a video montage of clips where ELP was mentioned in numerous TV shows including The Simpsons:
The opening number “Hoedown” had Paul hitting every note on his guitar that would have been played on a keyboard. Next Carl steps out from behind his drums to welcome everybody and introduce “Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Part 2.”
It was amazing how these songs came to life in this fashion. Next up was “Knife-Edge” where the bass was so strong it rattled the rafters and the hair was standing straight up on my arms. Carl then spoke about Greg Lake for a minute and said they were going to do a song Lake wrote when he was only 14 years old and it would later go on to be one of ELP’s biggest hits.
They went into “Lucky Man” and right before the first verse Todd Rundgren appeared on stage to sing it. It brought back good memories of time passed. The set ended with “Fanfare for the Common Man” where Carl showed his chops has not weened a bit and put on a 7-minute drum solo that kicked my ass. He started his career playing with Arthur Brown and tonight showed that his career is long from being over. If they could have put on a longer set they may have just stole the show.
Next up was the ‘Wizard and True Star,’ the ever-unpredictable Todd Rundgren. You never know what to expect but tonight was not going to be a greatest hits package. He was backed by some of his long time fellow musicians with the mighty Prairie Prince on drums, Kasim Sulton on bass, Jesse Gresse on guitar and he brought along his lovely backup singers The Global Girls.
Todd is out on the road promoting his fine new album White Knight. The show opened with “Come” the opening track from that album. Todd took center stage dressed like Trump in a suit and a bright red tie singing “When it is time to come for you will you come with me?” Yes, Todd we will. Besides the new album, the set consisted of tracks from Todd’s last four albums and few classics for those who have not jumped into the new material with both feet yet.
The next song was “Truth” from the Liars album where Todd sings “The truth is stranger than fiction.” How true. He was continually in motion like a holy rolling preacher working the stage delivering his songs to his devoted followers with precision and conviction.
Todd then picked up the guitar and went into a number I did not expect, “The Ikon,” from the Utopia album Another Live. But the standout track for me tonight was “This is Not a Drill” from White Knight.
On the album Joe Satriani plays the leads but tonight Todd was the man ripping up the strings.
Todd ended his set as he usually does with a few classics to please the masses. They went into “One World” and then ever popular “Hello It’s Me” before closing with his anthem “Just One Victory.” It’s a powerful song with a good message.
Yes featuring Steve Howe, Alan White and Geoff Downes were next. This was not the Jon Anderson, Rick Wakeman, Trevor Rabin Yes. Steve Howe says “We are our own entity.” They would be doing one song apiece in chronological order from their first ten albums starting with 1969’s Yes album and concluding with “Drama.” The stage was packed with equipment, lights and ready for blast off.
The first song “Survival” was a rarity which prior to this tour was never really played live before. “Time and A Word” was delivered with delicate skill with new lead singer Jon Davison singing like he was the ghost of Jon Anderson. Opening slow and easy but now they were ready to pick up the pace with “Yours is No Disgrace.” Alan White’s drums were accented by the additions of Steve Howe’s son Dylan also on drums.
The set was full of rarities and oddities from “South Side of the Sky” from 1971’s Fragile and “Soon” from 1974’s Relayer. “Machine Messiah” was an epic closer to their set. Steve Howe’s opening lead was powerful as well with the vocal harmonies of Jon Davison and bassist Billy Sherwood. The night ended with everybody’s favorite “Roundabout.” We were all just a bunch of happy hippies reliving some of the music from out past and proud of it. Peace.