(28 August 2003) Asia Live in the USA
(Classic Rock Productions (UK) CRP1044, 2003)
is a two-CD set that was recorded in Trenton, NJ
at the first day of the Classic Rock Festival
on October 5, 2002 during their tour in support of
their latest studio album Aura. An
accompanying DVD entitled Asia America Live
in the USA (Classic
Rock Productions (UK) CRP1034, 2003) of the
performance is also generally available in
both PAL and NTSC formats.
Asia's current lineup consists of Geoff Downes
(keyboards), John Payne (bass and lead vocals),
Guthrie Govan (guitar) and Chris Slade (drums).
The classic track "The Heat Goes On" from the Alpha
album opens the show. It has been a fan favorite for
20 years now. This track features what is probably Geoff’s
best Hammond solo and he really shines on this track. "Days
Like These," with its catchy chorus follows and is perfectly
suited for John Payne's voice. "Awake," the first single
from the new Aura album follows. It features some
beautiful piano work during the middle bridge as well as
a classic Moog solo from Geoff.
"Arena" from the album of the same name also features some
fabulous Hammond work from Geoff and a stunning guitar solo
from Guthrie who somehow manages to make one guitar sound
like an arsenal of guitars. "Military Man" an explosive rocker
from the Aria album features an electrifying guitar solo
from Guthrie. Chris Slade really shines on this track
effortlessly switching from a rock backbeat to a
military style drum march during the middle section.
"Wherever You Are" also from Aura (co-written
with Andrew Gold formerly of 10cc) is a solid AOR
radio-friendly track once again allows Guthrie to really
let loose at the end of the song. A reworked version of
"Who Will Stop The Rain" from Aqua and
also the first track that Geoff and John wrote together follows.
A punchy Moog lead starts off the song followed by stunning vocal
harmonies. "Bad Asteroid," a jazzy/funky piece, features fabulous
interplay and trading solos from all four members
and sounds more like Al Dimeola than Asia. "Don't Cry" closes
the set and while it's a little stiff compared to the
popular studio version, it holds up nicely.
The second CD starts with one of the two standout tracks from
Aura, "Kings of The Day." This may very well be the best
Asia track from the Downes/Payne era. The song starts with a
funky rhythm line from Geoff which follows throughout the song.
Guthrie performs what is probably his most impressive and melodic
solo during the middle bridge. This version varies from the studio
version during the end section as Geoff plays the melodic guitar
line on piano and the result is simply stunning. Vocal harmonies
at the end of the song are brilliant. This is one of those tracks
that rewards the listener big time with repeated listenings.
A keyboard solo from Geoff follows in the vein of his electronic
"Light Program" CD which then goes into the solo piano part from
"Cutting It Fine," a fan favorite since 1983. A medley consisting
of "Love Under Fire / Sad Situtation / Longest Night" perfomed by
Geoff on piano accompanied by John on vocals slows things down
a bit and allows a reworking of some Asia classics perfectly
suited for piano and vocals.
"Ready To Go Home" from Aura features a blistering
solo from Guthrie as does "Sole Survivor," a classic from
the 1983 debut album. "Free" an 8:30 prog epic also from
Aura is the crowning glory from the show. Starting
at a frantic pace with lead synth and guitar interplaying
with drums and bass holding up the rhythm section this song
represents the very best of Asia. John Payne has never sounded
better. The middle break is absolutely stunning with gorgeous
Hammond organ and synth. Guthrie’s lead guitar over Geoff's
keyboards is exquisite. Chris Slade's drum work is nothing
short of spectacular bringing this piece to a powerful end.
This is a most difficult piece to play live and the band pulls
it off brilliantly.
"Only Time Will Tell," a classic rock staple, is the first of
three encores. "Go" from the Astra album is reworked with
excellent results. John Payne sounds right at home singing this
track from the Wetton/Downes era. Geoff and Guthrie trade licks
at the end of the track bringing this classic to new heights.
"Heat of the Moment," Asia’s very first single closes the show
and makes for a very fine ending to a great performance.
Read further reviews, listen to soundbites and order the
album from amazon.com
The accompanying DVD can be ordered from amazon.com
All in all this was obviously an excellent show and the
two-CD set that commemorates it is a very worthwhile purchase
for fans of Asia and progressive rock.--Scott Bassin