British Prog Bands Light Up Stage at Comerica Theater

Steve Howe, guitarist for YES during Royal Affair Tour 2019 at Comerica Theater in Phoenix, AZ

Review and Photos by Fred Kuhlman
Promoter: Live Nation
Venue: Comerica Theater, Phoenix, AZ
Date: Wednesday July 26th, 2019
Tour: Royal Affair Tour 2019

It is not every day that you get to see a group of bands that influenced music in 1 show.  The Royal Affair Tour was a collection of 4 (maybe 1 additional) British Progressive Rock bands that set the theme for today’s progressive rock music.  In the 70s there were very few bands that had the drawing power of Emerson, Lake & Palmer (ELP) and YES.  These 2 bands set the stage for all other progressive bands to follow, selling out stadiums and even headlining major festivals like California Jam in 1974.  Then you add a combination of ELP and YES together and you get the mega-hit rock band ASIA in the 80s.  In the late 60s The Moody Blues brought the concept of full orchestra sound to their music with their massive hit album Days of Future Passed.  You add the lead singer of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown from the late 60s and you have a truly outstanding lineup.

It was 4.5 hours of unbelievable music performed by some of the best artist of all times.  The stage was loaded for the first 3 bands and minimal chances were done between sets (about 5 minute breaks).  After ASIA completed their set, they took about a 20 minute break to reset the stage for YES.  During that time, Carl Palmer, Paul Bielatowicz, Arthur Brown and Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal came out to the venue’s entry and signed merchandise and took selfie’s with fans.  A number of the band members actually did double duty by performing in other bands.  Jon Davison came out to sing with John Lodge.  Both Carl Palmer, Steve Howe, Billy Sherwood and Geoff Downes performed in both their owe bands and ASIA.

Unfortunately, the tour completed just a few stops after our show.  The bands are now off doing their own things and some of the members are off exploring other projects.  Carl Palmer has hinted about bring ELP back using holograms of Keith and Greg on a possible future tour.  Bumblefoot indicated that he would be getting back to one of his other projects and complete a new album with Sons of Apollo.  John Lodge and band will be part of the ‘70s Rock & Romance Cruise in February, 2020.  Steve Howe and YES are currently readying the release of their 50th anniversary cd set and the Steven Wilson remixes of their classic albums.  If you have not heard a Steven Wilson remix, then you really owe it to yourself to go to Spotify or Amazon and check them out.  I have purchased a number of Steven’s remixes from Jethro Tull’s Aqualung to Gentle Giant, King Crimson and YES’s Fragile.  All of the remixes are phenomenal and bring new life to these spectacular albums.

Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy

Carl Palmer with Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy during Royal Affair Tour 2019 at Comerica Theater in Phoenix, AZ

The stage was loaded with equipment including a massive keyboard platform and 2 large drumkits.  Mic stands were everywhere and the foot pedal setups were outrageous.  The stage goes dark and out comes the first band, Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy.

First up was one of my favorite performers, Carl Palmer of ELP fame.  With the passing of Keith Emerson and Greg Lake, Carl has put together a new band that performs the classic ELP songs.  This is my third time to see Carl’s new band and each time it gets better.  What can I say about Carl and his drumming, he is truly a virtuoso.  I saw ELP numerous times in the 70s during their heyday and Carl is as good today as back then, but with only a slightly small drumkit.  Carl is the drummer that all other drummer expires to become.  It was great to see Carl perform a drum solo during “Fanfare For The Common Man” and it unquestionably demonstrated him being one of the greatest rock drummer.  I am still disappointed that ELP has never been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is a major slap in the face to one of the biggest draws of the 70s.

Carl was joined by guitarist extraordinaire, Paul Bielatowicz.  This young guitarist has the unenviable job of attempting to produce Keith Emerson’s keyboard and Moog synthesizer sounds.  In past shows Paul has done a masterful job, but for this tour Paul has introduced a new setup using foot pedals and a computer program that allows him to reproduce sound similar to the Hammond Organ Keith use.  When I first heard about this new setup, I was skeptical, but seeing the show it was truly amazing and spot on.

Normally Carl tours with bass player Simon Fitzpatrick.  But for this tour David Pastorius has joined the group.  David did a good job providing the rhythm for the band’s music and groove.

Arthur Brown, lead signer for Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy during Royal Affair Tour 2019 at Comerica Theater in Phoenix, AZ

Now we get to the newest member of Carl’s band, Arthur Brown.  For those unfamiliar with Arthur Brown, he created a band in 1967 called The Crazy World of Arthur Brown.  They toured the US in 1968/1969 promoting their new album.  They were joined by a very young drummer, Carl Palmer.  Arthur created a hit song called “FIRE” as part of their first album.  I remember seeing a band perform this song in the late 60s or very early 70s at a small bar in Ohio (not sure if it as actually Arthur Brown or a cover band).  I was fascinated to see this crazy character come out on stage in these weird costumes and start singing.  I remember the show for the song “Fire”.  The stage was dark, and the lead singer yelled out “I AM THE GOD OF HELL FIRE, AND I BRING YOU – FIRE” as the stage erupts in flames.  This was the first time I had seen something this outrageous and I was hooked.  Arthur with his stage presence and crazy persona was the predecessor of such greats as Peter Gabriel and Alice Cooper.

Carl and the band played 5 songs and Arthur sang on 3 of the songs including his hit “Fire”.  Paul really showed off his new setup when they played Hoedown and I could swear I was hearing Keith’s Hammond organ. During the 3 song Arthur sang, he came out with a different costume setup each time including one that had wings.

Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2019, All Rights Reserved

Carl Palmer’s Setlist:
Karn Evil 9: 1st Impression, Part 2                              (Arthur Brown Sang)
Knife-Edge                                                                          (Arthur Brown Sang)
Fire                                                                                        (Arthur Brown Sang)
Fanfare for the Common Man                                    (Carl’s drum solo)

John Lodge

John Lodge of Moody Blues with 10000 Light Years Band performing as part of the Royal Affair Tour 2019 at Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, AZ, USA

Next up was John Lodge, the bass player of one of my favorite bands of the 60s, The Moody Blues.  By the late 60s I was getting tired of the same top 40 song played constantly on AM radio and migrated into FM radio that played more non-mainstream music.  This is how I first heard of The Moody Blues.  I remember hearing “Nights In White Satin” and was amazed at the complexity and distinctive sound.  I ran out and purchased the album, Days Of Future Passed and played it constantly on my console stereo.  I actually wore it out and had to get additional copies.  I remember having an English teacher in high school that was teaching us about poetry.  Most of the class was bored out of our minds at reading the stale old poetry in the English books.  This teacher taught us that the music we were listening to was just a new form of poetry and allowed us to bring in a selected song and then as a class we discussed it.  I picked “Question” from their 1970 album, A Question of Balance.

John Lodge was the bass player and writer for a number of hits for The Moody Blues.  Like most bands from the 60s and 70s, only a small number of members are touring today.  John has brought with him a new group of musicians called the 10,000 Light Years Band.  This band is currently made up of John’s long-term collaborator Alan Hewitt (Music Director and Keyboards) and Billy Ashbaugh (Drums) from the Moody Blues touring band.  They are joined by Duffy King (Guitars) and Jason Charboneau (Cello).

John Lodge and 10000 Light Years Band performing as part of the Royal Affair Tour 2019 at Comerica Theatre in Phoenix, AZ, USA

They started the set with background music leading up to the band coming out and slipping into John’s song “Steppin’ in a Slide Zone”.  By the time they got to “Legend of a Mind” the crowd was really into it.  They ended the set with two of John’s and The Moody Blues biggest hits, “I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)” and “Ride My See-Saw”.

John’s voice is still very strong and clear and his playing is stellar.  John ranks up there with some of the greatest bass players of the 60s including John Entwistle, Paul McCartney and Jack Bruce.  If you love The Moody Blues music, then you really need to checkout John live.  He and the band put on a great show.

Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2019, All Rights Reserved

John Lodge’s Setlist:
Steppin’ in a Slide Zone
Saved by the Music
Legend of a Mind
Gemini Dream
Isn’t Life Strange
I’m Just a Singer (In a Rock and Roll Band)
Ride My See-Saw


ASIA during Royal Affair Tour 2019 at Comerica Theater in Phoenix, AZ

After the breakup of ELP and YES in the 80s, some members of those bands formed a new band, ASIA.  Carl Palmer was the drummer and was joined by Steve Howe and Geoff Downes from YES.  The debut album self-titled ASIA included hits, “Wildest Dreams”, “Sole Survivor”, “Only Time Will Tell” and “Heat of the Moment” and the videos were a mainstay on MTV.  Amazingly this was the first time I have seen ASIA.  The current lineup includes those 3 original members with YES’s new bass player Billy Sherwood and former Guns N’ Roses guitarist Ron “Bumblefoot” Thal as lead singer.

Bumblefoot started out as lead guitarist playing his signature double-neck guitar.    In the middle of the set, Carl and the band played a tribute to Greg Lake when they performed Greg’s hit, “Lucky Man”.  Geoff performed a mini keyboard solo that ended with the band performing “Cutting It Fine”.  Then Steve Howe came out and took over lead guitar duties starting with “Wildest Dreams”.  Steve then played for the rest of the set.

Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2019, All Rights Reserved

Asia’s Setlist:
Don’t Cry
Video Killed the Radio Star                           (Buggles cover)
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes
Lucky Man
Keyboard Solo                   (Geoff Downes, “Cutting It Fine” ending)
Wildest Dreams                (Steve Howe joins the group)
Sole Survivor
Only Time Will Tell
Heat of the Moment


YES drumkit for Royal Affair Tour 2019 at Comerica Theater in Phoenix, AZ

As with a number of bands from the 60s and 70s, the members are touring independently.  This is the case for YES.  This flavor of YES consists of former members, Steve Howe on guitar, Alan White on drums and Geoff Downes on keyboards.  They were joined by Billy Sherwood on bass whom Chris Squire (original member and bass player) recommended as his replacement.  That have added Jon Davison as lead singer.

Jon Davison and Alan White of YES during Royal Affair Tour 2019 at Comerica Theater in Phoenix, AZ

We, the photographers were told that we could shoot the first 2 songs of the encore.  Looking at prior concert setlists, it looked like we would be able to photograph over 20 minutes since “Starship Troopers” was one of the songs.  Instead the audience was fortunate to get a third song added to the encore, YES’s mega hit “Roundabout” just prior to “Starship Troopers”.

Steve Howe, guitarist for YES during Royal Affair Tour 2019 at Comerica Theater in Phoenix, AZ

Steve was incredible tonight.  This was probably the most animated and happy I have seen Steve since the 70s.  I don’t know if it was the larger stage or that the tour was almost over, but for tonight’s show he definitely put his full heart and soul into the performance.  Steve played a number of different guitars from acoustic to his mainstay Gibson.  It was also awesome to see Alan White back on drums.  Alan’s health of late has not been great, but for tonight’s show he played about half of the songs including the 3-song encore.  Billy had song amazing shoes to fill when he replaced Chris Squire, but after hearing Billy perform, you can see why Chris recommended Billy to replace him.  Geoff also had some very big shoes (literally) to fill on keyboard but he did an incredible job.  Last but not least was the lead singer Jon Davison.  Jon has the unenviable job of trying to replay one of the icon voices of the 70s.  In his own why, Jon delivers the goods.  His hormonic and wondrous voice rings out clear and strong bring live to this classic music.

Photos © Fred Kuhlman 2019, All Rights Reserved

YES Setlist:
No Opportunity Necessary, No Experience Needed           (Richie Havens cover)
Tempus Fugit
Going for the One
I’ve Seen All Good People
Steve Acoustic Solo
Siberian Khatru
America                               (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
The Gates of Delirium
Imagine                                (John Lennon cover)
Starship Trooper


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