(Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI - October 8th, 2014)
With British super group, ASIA having announced its 2014 World Tour and the release of their brand new album, Gravatis, once again the band came to town, and back to the Royal Oak Music Theatre.
With now three of the original band members - John Wetton, Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer - still forming the mainstay of the band, the replacement for Steve Howe is new kid on the block, guitarist Sam Coulson.
After a quick burst of the 1812 Overture, the four band members come on stage, one by one, gently waving, fist pumping, saluting their adoring fans. Not quite a sold-out crowd, it deserved to be. Quickly behind their equipment, Wetton waits patiently until Downes hits a key that kick starts 'Soul Survivor' and then another classic in, 'Wildest Dreams.'
"Thank you," Wetton says, "It's great to be back here." With Wetton's voice as big, as distinctive as ever, it really doesn't matter that the trio of original artists are showing some personal girth and grey hair. I mean, if you can still do what these guys do, all in perfect harmony with each other after 30 years, does it truly matter what they wear or look like?
"Good evening," Wetton continues, "How are you all tonight? Wanna have some fun? This one is from a more recent album," he adds, before the band launch into 'Face On The Bridge.' Once done, they soon move into one of the early highlights of tonight’s show, a powerful, scorching 'Time Again,' which quite rightly receives the first standing ovation of the night. A song that showcases the fact that Wetton has lost none of his 30 years in the making re: Asia vocal tones, it was a great rock moment to behold.
"Here's a new song for you. It's the first song on the new CD," Wetton says, as he introduces, 'Valkyrie.' Thanking everyone for their love for the song afterwards, Wetton - the mouth piece of the band - tells the fans that they are going to play a lot of songs from the past 30 years. They then play a great track, and one unknown to me, 'Finger On The Trigger,' and back that up with a different version from the album of, 'I Know How You Feel.'
"For those that remember back to 1985," Wetton says, "here is one from the Astra album that is about your country," and with that we get a very country-inspired, 'Voice of America.' Wetton and Coulson play acoustic guitars, Palmer a tambourine, and Downes' keys are quietly understated. "This is a little tearjerker from 1983," Wetton continues after, as the band launch into the heartfelt, 'The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.'
After a 20 minute intermission, the band come back out and now Palmer is doing the talking. "We're gonna begin the second set with a piece from the Phoenix album. This is 'Extraordinary Life'." After that, Wetton thanks everyone and reveals that they are going to play the title track from their new album, 'Gravitas.' But, as he tries to continue to talk about the break-up origins of the song, he physically breaks down a little, stutters in his speech, and simply adds, "It's a very, very sad song."
Palmer than announces that this portion of the show is the first of the solo features of the night, and then introduces Geoff Downes on the keyboards. A five minute keyboard showcase, it could easily have been omitted from the night (sorry). "We're gonna continue on with a number one single from many years back," Palmer reveals, as the band then give us a fantastic, 'Days Like These.' "Thank you, but we didn't write that," Wetton admits, before the runaway train of, 'Go' is brought forth.
"So, who was around in 1983," Wetton asks, slyly himself pointing at the young Coulson. "If you were, you might have heard this on the radio," and with that we get one of the best sung, best felt classic ASIA songs of the night, 'Don't Cry.' Next up we get an incredible, simply amazing solo drum spot from Carl Palmer. What he does with his drum set, and his sticks therein is mesmerizing.
"Want another song," Wetton asks the now-standing crowd. Of course, they scream their positive response back, which leads us into the monster worldwide hit, 'Heat Of The Moment.' Complete with an audience sing-along mid-section, once done Wetton thanks the audience: "God Bless, Royal Oak," and after a group bow they are gone. No encore, no band introductions, no finale more than the extended last track, this is how ASIA roll, bitches!
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk
The highly-impressive Royal Oak Music Theatre is located at 318 W. Fourth Street, Royal Oak, Michigan. It was built as a vaudeville theatre and opened in 1928.
Get Royal Oak Music Theatre tickets at AXS.com