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America Live In The USA CD Cover
Image © Classic Rock Productions 2003 

(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 (review) 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 here. The accompanying DVD can be ordered from amazon.com here. 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

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