Not all bands boast an all-original lineup like U2, ZZ Top and Aerosmith these days, and that, according to many music fans, is perfectly fine.
Many of those listeners showed up in full, happy force Sunday at the Walmart AMP in Rogers to see and hear Yes, Asia, Moody Blues bassist-singer John Lodge and Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy demonstrate both their still-strong skills and their ability and drive to carry on without some original members.
Longtime rock and progressive rock fan Bill Rebsamen of Fort Smith willingly offered praises for the current talent levels of the bands as he watched them perform some of their best-known album cuts, radio favorites and new material.
"It's worthy of note that Yes bassist Billy Sherwood was hand-picked by the original Yes bassist, Chris Squire, to be his successor before Squire's death," he said. "Sherwood is no stranger to Yes, as he was a full member and played key roles on the late 90s Yes albums, 'Open Your Eyes' and 'The Ladder.'
"Those are highly underrated Yes albums, as is the latest Yes album, 'Heaven & Earth,' which features new Yes singer, Jon Davidson," Rebsamen added.
Part of what is being called the Royal Affair Tour, the hot evening's sounds were full and crisp, with lead vocals and vocal harmonies heard clearly alongside the instrumentation of guitars, bass, keyboards, drums and percussion.
"I like your tour shirt; I saw Rush, too," one man said to a stranger in between sets. "I saw Rush about 10 years ago in Tulsa, and I saw them on the '2112' tour a long time ago."
"I like your shirt, too," answered the Rush fan. "The artwork on your Yes shirt, that is from one of my favorite Yes albums."
The neighborly vibe extended onto the stage, with drummer Carl Palmer boasting about his band mates in Asia and Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy. He gave props to Asia/Yes keyboardist Geoff Downes, who then gave praises to Asia/Yes bassist Billy Sherwood. Palmer also told the audience he was proud to have guest vocalist Arthur Brown along for the tour.
Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy paid tribute to Palmer's work in Emerson Lake & Palmer, providing strong renditions of "Fanfare for the Common Man," "Hoedown," "Lucky Man" and "Knife-Edge," as well as Brown's "Fire."
Moody Blues bassist-singer John Lodge followed with his solo set, which gained extra momentum via spirited run-throughs of the Moody's "Ride My See-Saw," "Gemini" and "I'm Just a Singer (in a Rock and Roll Band)." Not to be outdone, original Asia members Palmer, Downes and guitarist Steve Howe worked well alongside Sherwood and singer-guitarist Ron "Bumblefoot" Thal, with "Heat of the Moment" a favorite and the stirring "Soul Survivor" a Top 3 moment for the night.
"Yes sounds great, too!" Rebsamen said as longtime Yes drummer Alan White joined Yes. "They're doing a killer version of 'America,' with lots of improvisation. And Billy Sherwood is killing it on bass!"
For Van Buren resident Mike Kneeland, many bands have the right to soldier on into the recording studio and on the concert stage after original and classic-era members quit or die.
"As for bands with a mix of both original members and replacements, the music's sound doesn't change noticeably to the novice ear," he said. "For my generation, if a band member passes away and then is replaced, a band can still be successful and even attractive to a fan."
Groups like The Pretenders, Deep Purple and Faces made lineup changes and were, at times, more successful because they continued to produce popular, original pieces of music, Kneeland said. The real question concerning bands that replace members, he said, is can they bands still be relevant?
"Do they produce new and popular material similar to the original band's sound, or do they cover the original band's music?" Kneeland asked. "Can they sell albums or can they fill a venue at current ticket prices, and finally, does the music speak to and for the generation it represents, or the music is timeless and crosses many generations, like the song, 'Imagine,' by John Lennon?"
Rebsamen, who spent weeks anticipating the Yes/Asia/Lodge/Palmer concert at the Walmart AMP, said that he was thrilled that all four groups are still creating new music.
"I wouldn't miss this Royal Affair Tour concert," he said. "This is prog-rock heaven!"