Sunday, August 29, 2010

Asia in Napa, or is it Napa in Asia...

Tonight I saw one of the greatest things ever, the original lineup of Asia powering through a killer set playing with a fired up fervor rarely seen on the oldies circuit. The first supergroup of the 80s flew into wine country and turned in a magical performance. And we had third row seats!

The set list:

I Believe / Only Time Will Tell / Holy War / Never Again / Through My Veins / Don't Cry / Steve Howe solo / The Smile Has Left Your Eyes / Open Your Eyes


Go / Time Again / An Extraordinary Life / End Of The World / The Heat Goes On / Carl Palmer Solo / Sole Survivor


Days Like These / Heat Of The Moment

I've been to a lot of concerts and it's rare that there is one that I felt was perfect, but Asia got pretty close to perfection on a warm Sunday evening. In the remodeled Uptown Theater in Napa, I sat mere feet away from the four British gentlemen whose music I worshipped through my formative years.

The band came blasting out with a set list that mixed classic Asia with a fair amount of tracks from their past two reunion albums Phoenix and Omega. It's rare to see an "oldies" band play more than two modern songs in a show, let alone six cuts. This is the type of set list you would hear bands in their prime play, inspired by recent material and trying to push their record sales via live performance. Thunderous tracks like "I Believe" and "An Extraordinary Life" flew high on the backs of these talented guys. And who would doubt the total awesomeness of "Only Time Will Tell" or "Heat Of The Moment".

There were some amazing surprises in store as well, with two post Steve Howe tracks "Go" and "Days Like These" getting play. "Go" is one of my fave Asia songs and I was ecstatic to hear it live. "Days Like These" was also great, it had been so long since I'd heard it I didn't recognize the song until the chorus. Two Alpha songs got fine treatments with just keyboardist Geoff Downes and vocalist John Wetton on "Don't Cry" and "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes". The latter cut blew my mind when the ending switched from Wetton / Downes to a full band reprise. I'd dreamt of hearing a full band version of "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" and now there it was.

Steve Howe's acoustic guitar solo (that included his classic "Mood For A Day") was mesmerizing. Howe was the most fired up I'd ever seen him, pulling out all the spastic awkward stage moves he's known for. Carl Palmer remains a beast on the skins even post heart surgery. His epic drum solo had me flashing back to Asia in Asia. Keyboardist Geoff Downes got short shrift from the soundman, his twinkling synths were buried under a wall of sound. Meanwhile, John Wetton sang excellently and impressed me with his nimble bass work.

Anyone who doubts Asia's ability should check out "Time Again", the old guys nailed the fancy instrumental interplay with gusto.

In terms of record sales Asia's time is gone, but in terms of inspired arena rock their time is now.

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