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Saturday, November 3, 2012

Asia Live at Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, Michigan. USA.

Asia Live at Royal Oak Music Theatre, Detroit (Suburb), Michigan. USA.

November 1st, 2012


Asia is a band, where each musician has so much history, so much so that I could easily fill a whole page just on that alone.
So, to keep it more to the point, especially keeping that thought in mind, for those that really don’t know who’s in Asia – Where have you been for the past 30 years!? – the band is made up today, of four superstar status musicians.

John Wetton (King Crimson, Uriah Heep, Bryan Ferry/Roxy Music, UK, Wishbone Ash) on Bass / Lead Vocals, Steve Howe (Yes, GTR) on Guitars / B.Vocals, Carl Palmer (Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Atomic Rooster, 3 (Three), Qango) a phenomenal drummer extraordinaire and the perhaps least known, yet perhaps most talented (Ouch! I’m going to get some stick for that I’m sure!) is Geoff Downes (Buggles, Yes, Trapeze, Icon, Qango) on Keyboards / B.Vocals.

This is the definitive Asia line that started it all in 1982, with the very first self-titled debut and the second release 'Alpha.'
After that, various Asia albums were released with many different members, but one constant being Geoff Downes.
In 2006 all four of the original members reunited and have been together since, whilst all carrying on with their other projects too.

Asia on stage in Royal Oak, Michigan. - Photo: Alun Williams

Today the band are out touring in support of ‘XXX’ signifying the band’s 30th Anniversary and they made a stop in Royal Oak, Michigan, a suburb that’s kind of headed on the north west side of the city and it’s a pretty nice area.
Royal Oak Music Theatre, which was opened back in 1928, is a pretty nice smaller size venue holding around 1700 capacity.

So to the show, there was strict instructions given to all security – As I heard while standing in line to get my ticket - that there was to be ‘NO photography during the bands set.’ When I got to the box office, no photo pass … Uh oh!

So round the back of the venue I went, seeking out someone to put me in touch with tour manager, who I’d been told I could go to if there were troubles at the box office. This took some time and I thought I’d miss the start of the show, as thirty minutes passed.

Still, it happened in the end - You lot think this reviewing lark is a walk in the park huh?! – although the amount of security that kept grabbing me saying ‘no photo’s’ was just crazy, at least five members of the venue security hassled me. Ah well …

OK now, really, to the show!
John Wetton and Carl Palmer of Asia - Photo: Alun Williams

The band hit the stage around 8.30pm and continued until around 10.20pm, lucky us, they played a good mix of material – In my opinion. – covering so much of their back catalogue and included a track that was originally only released as a ‘B’ side to 'Only Time Will Tell,’ which incidentally was the song they started with!
It was a huge hit single back in the day that became very popular in those early days of MTV. Such a great song!
My only gripe on the show itself was that the vocals seemed to come through just a tad muffled, but the music throughout … Great!

 ‘Wildest Dream’ next also from that great first album, really gave everyone the chance to experience Carl Palmer’s greatness, from early on in the show. Seriously, he is phenomenal!

New track, ‘Face on the Bridge’ was next, with a tasty solo from Steve Howe, it’s a great track as are they all on the album, go on, go and check it out!

Geoff Downes, the keyboard maestro - Photo: Alun Williams

‘Time Again’ from the debut release was next and what’s this? The lighting seemed to be a lot brighter …
Hmm, I guess perhaps this ties in with only allowing photographers to shoot the first three songs and no flash allowed.

Ed’s note: Incidentally folks, that is standard press / PR protocol at any gig covered.

Something else I noticed during this song was that for the most part Geoff Downes with his three racks of keyboards, had his back to us, with the forth side open while playing with one hand on one keyboard and the other on any one of the many others. Well now, he seemed to turn and face the crowd, while playing either sets of keys to his right and left and his back to the third rack in between.
Bummer! When I tried to snap him in the first three songs, I was clearly too slow.
Still, the music is wonderful!

‘Tomorrow the World’ from ‘XXX’ is next and it’s the album’s opening track. I just love it, the way it builds from the gentle intro to how it just grows and grows in classic Asia style. The new album, really does seem to be a great return to the band’s classic early sound.


Next John Wetton introduces ‘a track that Steve Howe and I wrote, before the first album was released, that the powers that be didn’t think should be included.’ This is ‘Ride Easy’ the song that was the ‘B’ side to the ‘Only Time Will Tell’ single.
I remember it well and it’s great to hear it again after all these years.
John Wetton then introduces Steve Howe’s solo spot, as Steve grabs a chair and parks himself at the front of the stage with an acoustic guitar in hand and proceed to go through a series of acoustic arrangements, one I believe was a Vivaldi piece.
All nicely done, but I’m really not familiar with his solo acoustic works.

Around ten minutes on, Steve then wraps his spot up and then introduces ‘John Wetton and Geoff Downes are now going to play some different versions of new songs.’

This is just Geoff’s keyboards and John simply doing vocals and first up is ‘I Know How You Feel’ another from the latest ‘XXX’ release.
Sounds really nice too!

Steve Howe, so serious ... Great player! - Photo: Alun Williams

Then John asks the crowd if we would join in on the chorus of this next song and it’s ‘Don’t Cry,’ from the second album ‘Alpha.’
Fun stuff as John encourages the crowd to start clapping in the chorus and sing-along and looks like he’s having fun as well!

The whole band returns to the stage for another gem off the first album, ‘Cutting It Fine,’ magic stuff!
Sounds great, although I would say that when it gets to the section where it’s just Geoff on the keys, he was clearly keeping both hands busy, but I could hear more …
Not sure if Carl Palmer was playing something too, as when the military snare piece was heard, he had his back to the crowd, so who knows, just didn’t look like he was visibly moving, to be playing anything though?

‘Holy War’ from the last album ‘Omega’ and I love this song, although perhaps it was a little lost on the crowd, as a few of the people I spoke with only seemed to be aware of the hits. Shame … Sounded good to me guys!
It’s another of their songs where Carl Palmer really gets to shine and shone he most certainly does, before the drum master then proceeds to continue alone in his solo spot.
The guy is simply amazing, truly so … I know as a drummer I am biased, but nonetheless I felt the audience was equally inspired too!
I wish I could’ve videoed it, phenomenal!

Both hands and feet do so much and I particularly love the part where he’s just going around the cymbals and while one hand continues playing, the other throws the drumstick onto his large ride cymbal, to roll back down to him. He catches it and repeats this from time to time. Nice touch Carl, but he really is something else and all I can say is, ‘… And how!!!?!’

Carl Palmer on drums .. Wow! - Photo: Alun Williams

When he’s done, he introduces the next song ‘An Extraordinary Life,’ from the ‘Phoenix’ album, which was the band’s first reunion album. It’s a really nice tune and the crowd does appreciate it.

‘Open Your Eyes’ is up next from the ‘Alpha’ album and it closes with a massive climax with every one of them getting their moment to shine once again. Great, great stuff indeed!

This wraps up the set and they leave the stage, but the crowd is yelling for more and we’re all happy when they come back to play out with ‘Sole Survivor’ and closing number ‘Heat Of The Moment,’ which at the very end, John pushes the crowd to sing-along with too, after they’ve put their instruments down and come and take their bows.

 A truly wonderful show which I for one, thoroughly enjoyed, as did the nicely filled Royal Oak venue.

Happy 30th Anniversary Asia, now what next?!

Rating: 4.5 out of 5

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