I may be one of the few out there who lament the unceremonious end to Asia
2.0. I am referring to the post-1990 Asia, which saw bassist/vocalist John
Wetton exit and drummer Carl Palmer and guitarist Steve Howe (who hadn't
actually been with the band since 1983) take on a more cameo appearance for
1992's Aqua, the band's first album with new bassist/vocalist John Payne.
Over the course of a decade-plus, Payne and original keyboardist Geoff
Downes as primary songwriters would host a revolving door of guitarists and
drummers through several albums, which featured some very good music. Not
always the most brilliant lyrics but some darn good songwriting nonetheless.
Hopes were high for an Asia renaissance in 2005, when Silent Nation (the
first Asia album to sport a non- A---A album title) debuted on respected
prog rock label Inside Out. A solid lineup was committed to bringing the
band back into the musical consciousness and they were pumping out some of
their most complete music since the early years.
And then it was all over. Payne was ousted and Downes announced that
Wetton, Howe and Palmer would return for a reunion tour. And, just like
that, 15 years of songs went down the tubes. Oh well. Who cares? Moving on.
At least that's how it felt.
In Fantasia Live in Tokyo, Asia 1.0/3.0 took their hits (and the hits of
their other bands, specifically Yes, King Crimson, The Buggles and Emerson,
Lake and Palmer) from their two biggest albums, Asia (1982) and Alpha (1983)
to Japan in March 2007 and this DVD is the ensuing result. All the hits,
from "Heat of the Moment" to Yes' "Roundabout" to The Buggles' "Video Killed
the Radio Star" are represented, as would be expected. The sound is clean,
all the musicians still have their chops (including Wetton, who still has an
absolutely excellent voice), and the DVD even offers a somewhat dry but very
informative Q&A extra with each individual member (though there is sadly no
way to skip through each Q&A section).
But, still, something's missing.
What's missing would be passion. Maybe it's the somewhat dull Japanese
audience that came this concert in suits and ties, very few of which
actually stand up and get into the music. Maybe it's their age (Steve Howe
has looked particularly weathered for over a decade now and the rest have
seemed to enjoyed many a good meal, not to mention John Wetton's recent
triple by-pass). Maybe it's the need for the band to have to play "the hits"
on the reunion tour. Whatever it is, a lot of the time, Asia seems to be
going through the motions. When Downes throws on a silver jacket and shades
for "Video Killed the Radio Star," it's fun but seems like a forced gimmick.
When Palmer does his drum rolls in "Cutting it Fine," it seems like he could
just as well do it in his sleep.
Don't get me wrong, everyone's playing
great, but the true passion seems lacking but in a few areas. Notably, when
the band does songs from their other groups, emotions seem a little more
elevated. And throughout, Steve Howe has that trademark head wagging, crazed
eye look, which is always very refreshing.
Overall, it's good to see the band in this form still has it and still
puts on a decent show. Last I heard, they'd been considering getting back
into the studio. Maybe playing something besides 25-year-old songs will put
a little zip back in their step and a little more passion in their stage
Or, they could play something from five or six albums that have come out
since after the 1980s. But, I doubt that.