ASIA (Live)

At The Carling Academy, Newcastle, U.K., March 18, 2008

When Asia reunited for the 25th Anniversary of their record breaking debut album, few would have thought that the band would remain intact for a second tour let alone manage to produce another album after all these years. Those doubts seemed well founded when rather than the usual musical differences, ill-health struck the band leading to the postponement of the UK tour late last year due to John Wetton’s well publicised heart surgery along with a heart scare for drummer, Carl Palmer.

Fortunately for all concerned successful surgery and a period of recoupment has lead to a rejuvenated band hitting the UK for the rescheduled tour prior to the release of their hotly anticipated new album, Phoenix.

asia Opening with “Daylight”, the bonus track on the cassette version of Alpha was a surprising choice before Asia headed into the more familiar territory of “Only Time Will Tell” and “Wildest Dream” from the classic debut album.

“Never Again” was the first of two new songs aired in the set and what a cracker it is. Opening with a trademark Steve Howe riff and built around a shimmering melody and multi-layered, bombastic chorus, this is quintessential Asia and could quite easily have featured on their debut album. All those years apart have certainly not blunted their songwriting skills if this is anything to go by.

asia “Roundabout” by Yes heralded the first of the “heritage songs” where each member features on a song from their previous projects. Although excellent interpretations, their versions of King Crimson’s “In The Court of The Crimson King” and The Buggles “Video Killed The Radio Star”, the latter featuring Geoff Downes in shades and sparkly jacket showing that serious musos the do have a sense of humour, their selection of songs were the same as the previous tour. Now Yes, ELP and John Wetton’s numerous bands (Wishbone Ash, Uriah Heep and Phenomena amongst many others) have a lengthy back catalogue to plunder so it would have been nice for this section to be revamped somewhat. How about “Machine Messiah” from Yes’s Drama which features both Downes and Howe for example? Or perhaps a few more songs from Asia’s highly underrated third album Astra? OK, Howe had left at this point but there are certainly a few great songs on there that would have gone down a storm on stage on this tour. “Voice of America” featured briefly during an acoustic interlude by Wetton but this whetted the appetite for more.

Minor gripes aside the heritage material which also included ELP’s “Fanfare For The Common Man” were played with precision and dexterity that only seasoned professionals can attain.

asia “Extraordinary Life” was the second song from Phoenix and featured an emotive, uplifting vocal from Wetton more akin to the Poppier element of their second album Alpha.

What Asia lack in on-stage charisma and flamboyance is more than made up with by the expert musicianship and professionalism. Wetton was in fine voice throughout the show and his smooth baritone was clear and powerful. In fact Wetton was singing better than he has for a long time. The ever youthful Carl Palmer is simply one of the finest drummers around. His drum break on “Wildest Dreams” is inspired and his drum solo during “The Heat Goes On” is jaw-dropping; Steve Howe may look like he’s stepped out of a Harry Potter novel but his playing is sublime and his harmonies and fills are a joy to hear; Geoff Downes with his NASA approved keyboard rig fills the Asia sound with layers of keyboards and adds the harmonies and melodies to perfection.

asia The storming Pomp of “Open Your Eyes” romps along in majestic fashion and it makes one wonder how this was left out of the set on the last tour as this really is one of the big guns of the Asia arsenal.

AOR anthem and 40 Year Old Virgin approved “Heat of The Moment” closes the set and even the kids there with Mum and Dad down at the front are singing along with great enthusiasm proving that a great song never goes out of fashion.

Asia return with “Don’t Cry” and “Sole Survivor” before exiting the stage for the final time of an enthralling performance.

asia Asia have proved the doubters wrong, not only have they undertaken a second tour with all of the original members but have recorded a brand new album which is due for imminent release and having got over the health scares from last year, Asia can now look forward to an exciting future.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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