Concert Review – YES with Todd Rundgren and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy at The Microsoft Theater

For fans of progressive rock and more, multi-generational audiences were in for a rare treat when YESTIVAL — featuring YES and special guests Todd Rundgren and Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy honoring Keith Emerson and Greg Lake — made a recent stop at the Microsoft Theater on August 29.

Opening the dynamic show was Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy which is an essential, fierce power trio including Paul Bielatowicz and Simon Fitzpatrick. The band absolutely shred the arrangements (in the best possible way) and then reconstructed them. It was a powerful and creative display of virtuosity and musicianship that paid tribute to the music of one of the great progressive rock bands of all time.

To illustrate further the impact of Emerson, Lake and Palmer, projected a continuous montage of photos on the jumbotron screens highlighting the illustrious career of the band’s and their milestones. There was even a short video reel on ELP’s effect on pop culture with shout-outs on The Simpsons and Cheers.

When Todd Rundgren briefly joined the trio to sing “Lucky Man,” Palmer spoke movingly about Greg Lake who wrote the song at the tender age of 12 and then jokingly added he probably had too much brandy that night.

Right before the set of the all-too brief set and encore, the 67-year-old Palmer performanced one of his legendary drum solos. It was quite phenomenal considering the amount of energy and stamina he had exerted playing prior. One could say it was a master class of sorts or a drum clinic in how he showcased his fast, rhythmic, tricky and intricate skills and ended the solo with crashing two huge gongs above his drum kit. What a memorable and jaw-dropping way to end the set but he promised the audience the group would be back for another extended show soon.

At this point in the show, with an intermission to contemplate what the next act would be like in comparison, it would seem hard to believe that anyone could top Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy’s excellent performance. But Todd Rundgren “brought” the progressive rock too, but much more. A gifted pop songwriter and rock and roll maverick, the incredibly versatile and forward-thinking Rundgren gave the audience something to think about as well as dance to. He was the leader of Utopia along with his solo work. Rundgren is known for being innovator in using computers and synthesizers as well as utilizing quirky, offbeat sounds in his music even up to his current LP, “White Knight.” As such, Rundgren’s set was a challenging and intriguing mix of music that was compelling to hear. “This is Not a Drill” and “Buffalo Grass” were among the highlights of the set. “Hello It’s Me,” was the one big hit he performed that had a bit of a different arrangement from the FM-radio standard.

He was a lot of fun to watch, as the eclectic frontman continually strode the stage manically marked by dramatic, quirky hand gestures you couldn’t take your eyes of. From robotic to funky, Rundgren really got down with his bad self so to speak. Rundgren has a thrilling, melodic voice that reach operatic heights.

Rundgren was accompanied by a crack team of accomplished musicians in his backing band, with two striking, vixenish backup singers dressed in pink bras and short shorts. These elements made Todd Rungren’s set fearless, exciting, and very now. He continues to have the pulse on what is happening today and with an eye always on the future.

The headliners YES delivered a captivating set featuring greatest hits from the all of the band’s studio albums up to the 1980. YES is considered of the world’s most influential, ground-breaking, and respected progressive rock bands. Known for their daunting virtuosity, cosmic (often mystical) lyrics, complex music textures, and powerful yet delicate lead vocals, YES’ performance was exceptional. The set did tend to drag a bit here and there but overall it was quite good and fluid.

The current lineup of YES includes Steve Howe (guitar), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (vocals) and Billy Sherwood (the late Chris Squire’s chosen successor) on bass and Steve Howe’s son Dylan Howe also played drums. All are excellent musicians in their own right and have given YES their famous and remarkable signature sound. Steve Howe was often showcased playing guitar and pedal steel. Jon Davidson has a beautiful, crystal-clear voice that can scale the highest notes, and his strong presence manages to remain incredibly calming and self assured.

With gorgeous, stylized lighting and visuals that could be described as “out of this world,” with scenes of planets and landscapes, YES literally transported it audience into another universe and realm.

Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy Set List

Intro/Video Film
Welcome Back My Friends
Knife Edge
Lucky Man
Fanfare for The Common Man

Todd Rundgren Set List

Sir Reality
The Ikon
Buffalo Grass
This Is Not a Drill
Party Liquor
Buy My T
One World
Hello It’s Me

YES Set List

Yours Is No Disgrace
Southside of the Sky
And You & I
The Leaves of Green
Going for the One
Don’t Kill the Whale
Machine Messiah