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Concert Reviews
Yes wsg/ ASIA
(DTE Energy Music Theatre, Clarkston, MI - July 20th, 2009)

Asia, the rock group formed in the early '80s was always a band labeled as a "supergroup." Including former members of veteran progressive rock bands Yes, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Uriah Heep, Roxy Music, Wishbone Ash and The Buggles, and as of 2008, there are actually two distinct groups using the Asia name: a reunion of the band's original line-up performing as 'Asia,' and 'Asia - Featuring John Payne,' featuring three members from later incarnations of Asia.

Tonight the one that opened up for the mighty Yes was the former - with guitarist Steve Howe doing the honors in both bands! Taking to the stage, one by one, the visibly aged band kicked off with 'Wildest Dreams' and 'Only Time Will Tell' before John Wetton speaks to the crowd, "How are you all? It's been 26 years since we last played here - right here," he says, now pointing at the stage itself. 'An Extraordinary Life' from the recently-released Phoenix album is next. "If you cast your minds back to the very first pair of hands you saw in our first video, they were his," he says, now pointing at keyboardist Geoff Downes, who plays the intro to The Buggles' 'Video Killed The Radio Star' - complete with megaphone chorus and extended ending!

Once a stadium favorite at U.S. sporting events, Asia may not look like your typical rock band any more, but man, do they play as good as they ever did. With Wetton's vocals as spot on perfect as they were back in '82, it's Carl Palmer up next to speak. "Hello, we've got some retro stuff for you through the evening. And so, as John was in King Crimson, he's now gonna be in the 'Court of the Crimson King' for you tonight." With the crowd watching it, sat very still in their seats, trance-like even, upon its ending they all rose in unison and gave a two minute standing ovation.

"It's great to see you all tonight and we've got plenty more good music for you," Downes announces, before keying us into acoustic versions of both 'The Smile Has Left Your Eyes' (which sounded great slowed down), and 'Don't Cry' (which should never have been slowed down!). Although Steve Howe's electric mandolin playing was wonderful!

Wetton's announcement that they were going to do another song from their murky past and that it featured a drum solo from Palmer meant that up next was ELP's 'Fanfare For The Common Man.' And wow, what an energetic drum solo it was! Putting the once-great Tommy Lee himself to shame it featured all his signature drum solo moves, including cymbals and duel gongs! 'Sole Survivor' was next, before Wetton's question to the crowd if they wanted to hear one more was (obviously) greeted affirmatively, and so 'Heat Of The Moment' sprang forth. Ending the song with Downes on portable keyboards, rockin' out center stage as if he had an electric guitar, the crowd joined in the chorus over and over ... until it was over! "Thank you, you've been great - and we'll be back in another 26 years," jokes Wetton, as he and the band wave furiously to their fans before leaving exit stage right.

Yes, the English progressive rock band that formed in over there in London, England in the late '60s are a band whose music is marked by sharp dynamic contrasts, extended song lengths, abstract lyrics, and a general showcasing of instrumental prowess.

And tonight, trust me, all that fell into place, song by song, as usual! Taking the stage as quietly as Asia had done an hour before, the (original) band members of Yes already looked tired! Getting straight into it with 'Siberian Khatru,' the nine minute opener certainly allowed any naysayers re: Jon Anderson's replacement, Canadian Benoît David to hang their heads in shame! David's distinctive high-register lead vocals, much like when Steve Augeri replaced Steve Perry in Journey back in '98, were pitch perfect identical (give or take) to those of Anderson.

'I've Seen All Good People' allowed the crowd to find their voices, if not their feet. "Thank you all for turning up on a Monday night," Chris Squire announces to the crowd, before introducing the two newest members to the band - the aforementioned David and Rick's son, Oliver Wakeman on keyboards. The instrumental beginning turning to rock trip 'Tempus Fugit,' together with its ever-changing colorful light show, all keyed by a tremendous Squire bass line was next - before Howe (doing double duty in both bands) states that they're now going to take a look back at the vintage Yes years - and then gives us 'Astral Traveller.' The prog-rock band then played their collective way through the lengthy song, midway all but Alan White leaving the stage, allowing him to drum solo. Not in the same league as Palmer, it seemed to be in slow motion, if truth be told.

Now bathed in pale blue spotlights, opened by another Howe guitar moment ("Just when you thought Steve Howe was going to get a rest, he's taken over from James Brown as the Hardest Working Man in Showbusiness," Squire laughs), 'And You And I' (Cord of Life/Eclipse/The Preacher the Teacher/Apocalypse) is next. Then there's even time for Howe to take the solo spotlight for some guitar pickin' acoustic music, as he shows us his skills for a few minutes, changing the tone of the show completely. A stunning mini performance, everyone is back up on their feet, clapping like crazy at songs end.

"OK, we're now going to do a song that was a big hit for Yes, back when I wasn't in the band," Howe laughs. "I was off doing other things." The fantastic, and eagerly awaited 'Owner Of A Lonely Heart' is brought to the fore and the crowd is up on their feet and lovin' it! An extended version with a fantastic light show, once ended the standing ovation pose was back in style! Announcing that the opening song from their Drama album, 'Machine Messiah' is next, the song is yet another strong piece that allows both Howe and Downes to shine. It also features, for the first time, the acoustic guitar and tambourine work of David - not to mention a stage full of a sea of dry ice for extraordinary visual effect!

'Roundabout' is a fun, lengthy tune that comes next and pushes Squire center stage to enjoy some guitar limelight. David ensures that all the audience is now up on their feet by beckoning wildly that they indeed do so - and, they all do! "Thank you," Howe says, "we've got one more left for you - this is 'Heart of the Sunrise'." And with that, the band head off into the symphonic song in style. Having taken a quick group bow, to yet another standing ovation, they don't hang around in coming back and performing their true last song of the night, the eagerly awaited (and at times bayed for), continuous cadenza of chords known affectionately as, 'Starship Trooper'!

Review and Photos by: Russell A. Trunk