Yes’ Downes + Rundgren + ELP’s Palmer: Q&A

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The Yestival 2017 tour officially kicked off August 4 in Greensboro, N.C., featuring Yes, special guest Todd Rundgren and an opening set from Carl Palmer’s ELP Legacy honoring Keith Emerson and Greg Lake. Yes—Steve Howe (guitar), Alan White (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), Jon Davison (vocals) and Billy Sherwood (guitar/keyboards), plus touring member Dylan Howe, also on drums—will perform at least one song from each of the band’s first 10 studio albums starting with 1969’s Yes to 1980’s Drama.

Related: Yestival tour dates and further details here

Prior to its launch, the stars of the 31-date North American tour sat down to answer a few questions about what to expect on this summer’s outing and more.


Progressive rock has continued to defy musical trends and recently gained further momentum via the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honoring artists in the genre such as Yes and Rush. Artistically, progressive rock offers musicians the opportunity for the most imaginative musical explorations and fans an unparalleled musical journey. What are your thoughts about this?

Geoff Downes: There has been a school of thought that the Hall of Fame has overlooked British prog rock, which should really be defined as classic rock, but there you g Now hopefully they will move onto ELP, Moody Blues and other classic bands.

Todd Rundgren: “Progressive” means embracing progress so you would assume that the genre is infinitely adaptable. It’s no surprise that there are young musicians that are exploring the possibilities of modern music and revitalizing the ethos that the progressive movement represents.

Carl Palmer: While I respect the work of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and have a great relationship with the museum in Cleveland, being in it has limited importance for me as an artist. As far as I can see, I was inducted in the real Hall of Fame decades ago and celebrate each day I perform. The real Hall of Fame are the thousands of music lovers and progressive rock fans that come to my shows year in and year out. That’s who matters. If someday ELP is inducted it will be an honor, but I am not losing sleep over it until that day…Trust me. As far as what progressive rock offers musicians, it is really no different in spirit or execution from any other music genre. Good music is good music. It has to do with how the musician interprets and executes the music he or she is playing.

Yes, Todd Rundgren and Carl Palmer all on one bill is a true musical summit. Can you each talk about how you’re excited to check out each other’s sets?

Geoff Downes: Yes and ELP have pushed boundaries together for many years, a natural fit, and especially this year as we all wish to honor Keith and Greg. Todd has been at the peak of the American answer to the British prog movement and it is a fascinating mix.

Watch Yes perform “Starship Trooper” in Baltimore on August 7, 2017

Todd Rundgren: It’s an embarrassment of riches, both for us and the fans. Any one of the acts could fill an entire evening so figuring out a balance that works is the biggest challenge. I’m pretty sure there will be something for everyone, us included.

Carl Palmer: Yes has a special place in my heart. They are all my mates, and in the early days, Yes had its first exposure in America opening for Emerson Lake & Palmer. I have been working with both Geoff Downes and Billy Sherwood in Asia, so it is already a musical family that weaves itself in and out of each other. I am looking forward to touring with Todd Rundgren, as well. The work he did with his Utopia project was exceptional and reminded me of some of the best moments of Frank Zappa’s music. So, I think the fans will have a wonderful evening of music.

Related: The backstory of Rundgren’s “Hello, It’s Me” smash hit

What can fans look forward to in your Yestival set?

Geoff Downes: A track from each of the first 10 albums, sequentially, and a couple of encore staples. Plus we are raising the bar again with our production. Last year we were very proud of the “Tales from Topographic” and “Drama” production, and this year Roger Dean has again formed the foundation of our new stage show, which this year reintroduces lasers. Lasers and Yes are very happy bedfellows.

Todd Rundgren: I’m still promoting White Knight, so there will be some of that. We’re adding a little bit of Utopia music for those who really want to relive the old days. Whatever we’re playing, we like to put on a good show and get people on their feet if we can.

Carl Palmer: I have some surprises in mind. We are the opening act, and our set is only 30 minutes, so will need to focus on the shorter, radio hits of ELP; things like “Hoedown” and “Lucky Man.” There will be some music that most fans will not expect to hear. So, as we say: “Welcome back my friends…to the show that never ends…”

Yestival runs through September 19 stopping throughout the U.S. and Canada. Tickets for all shows are on sale now; go to for details.


Watch the trailer for Yestival 2017

Best Classic Bands Staff

2 Comments so far

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  1. HoosierRobert
    #1 HoosierRobert 5 August, 2017, 15:06

    Should be a great show, midly diminished by Carl Palmer, who’s still the blow hard credit grabber far beyond his talent. Shown by his weak performance at the ELP reunion. By his logic, I guess we owe the Monkees for Jimi Hendrix.

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  2. Mike L
    #2 Mike L 5 August, 2017, 15:53

    So looking forward to seeing the tour next week here in Brooklyn down in Coney island. Such a great lineup of bands/musicians who were the soundtrack to my late teens. Can’t wait

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