(Royal Oak Music Theatre, Royal Oak, MI - November 1st, 2012)
With British super group, ASIA having announced its 2012 World Tour in celebration of the band's 30th Anniversary and new CD, XXX, all the original band members - John Wetton, Steve Howe, Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer - brought their considerable rock sound to my home town.
After a short intro, the four band members come on stage, one by one, gently waving at the sold-out crowd. Quickly behind their equipment, Wetton waits patiently until Downes hits a key that kick starts 'Only Time Will Tell, and then suddenly we're off and running! Once done, they soon move into one of the early highlights of tonight’s show, a powerful, scorching 'Wildest Dreams.' 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.
"It's lovely to be here tonight," Wetton says to the baying crowd. "We're here to promote XXX, which also marks our 30 years on tour," he adds, as the crowd stands up to applaud in appreciation. New track 'Face On The Bridge' is then played, and together with a green lit backdrop, the song ain't half bad. 'Time Again' has a slight intro to it in the form of some funky bass, and soon the flashing stage lights begin to enhance the already frenetic track.
"Are you all OK?," Wetton asks his captive audience. "Good. We're gonna do another song now off XXX, the second of three tonight. This is 'Tomorrow The World'." After the song he thanks the crowd once more. "Thank you. And so from one of the newest tracks we wrote to one of the earliest songs we ever made. And it didn't make it onto the debut album, because of record company interference," he adds. "But we love it so we're gonna play it for you now."
With that 'Ride Easy' is brought forth, but it truly looks like all of them are out of sync with the song. Howe constantly looks at Downes, who constantly looks at Palmer, who constantly looks at Howe, who alternates on to Wetton too! With a midsection that seemed to dip and swerve just a wee bit too much for its own good, they manage to make it through without too much else troubling them!
As a chair is brought stage front, Wetton introduces us to Howe's solo moment in the spotlight. "The three of us are going to leave the stage for a few moments and leave you in the hands of someone we like to also listen to, Mr. Steve Howe." Lit only by a bright white spot, Howe hunkers down over his acoustic guitar and brings us a new work of his backed by a Vivaldi cut. One moment Renaissance Festival in styling, the next upbeat and fingerpickin' good, he shows why he is the master of his trade.
"Thanks very much," he says to the crowd after, shyly acknowledging their standing ovation. He then explains the two pieces before doing this weird one minute stand-up routine about a TV show host and the suits he wears! But, once that bizarre sixty seconds has expired he then introduces both Wetton and Downes back to the stage for a couple of duo moments. After the soaring 'I Know How You Feel' ballad, Wetton thanks the audience and then introduces the next song. "This next one is from 1989 and was a mega hit for us - and also broke the band up," he laughs. "I'll let you sing the chorus, but I'll let you know when," he adds, as the guys then launch into a tame version of 'Don't Cry.'
Constantly singing all his songs, whether he has his bass strapped to him or not, with a black and white guitar pick attached to his right thumb, Wetton is in fine vocal form tonight. But then again, they all truly are playing at a high level. 'Cutting It Fine' is next, and with the whole band back on stage, and lit under a pinky red glow, the song is just so great to hear. Downes solo key work leads us into 'Holy War,' which in itself eventually then bleeds into a ten minute Palmer drum solo! Full of smashes and crashes, tinkles and wrinkles, he stands up, sits down, turns around and even lets his sticks go solo sometimes too! Ending with some gong smashing and frantic drums, his standing ovation is well warranted.
He then takes to his own mic and introduces himself. "How are you all doing tonight? Wow, that was hot. Fantastic. In case you didn't know, that was the drum solo," he laughs. "Hey, I hope you are all enjoying this as we've got a lot more for you," he adds, as he then introduces a track from the Phoenix album, 'An Extraordinary Life.' Thereafter, Wetton then mutters deeply into the mic that "This is 'Open Your Eyes'," and under a red and purple lit stage the song comes alive. With Howe doing double duty on two lead guitars at the same time (kinda), at one point he even leaves his sanctuary of stage right and migrates closer to Downes all the way to stage left!
After the applause has died down, the band leave the stage, noticeably not shaking any hands, just waving. A few minutes later and they are back - Howe with an APPLAUSE sign cheekily under his arm, aimed at the audience! But, as you can expect, they didn't need to be told what to do at this point. A stunningly-vibrant 'Sole Survivor' under bright red spots is next, and together with audience handclapping also includes a wicked end-of-song Howe solo.
Wetton indicates to the crowd that there will be one more song, and after a terrific Howe guitar lead in, their monster hit 'Heat Of The Moment' is brought forth. Under yellow lights, it sounds pitch perfect in all facets and has the crowd up on their feet, slowly swarming to the front of the stage. As the song comes to an end, Wetton thanks the audience and then gets us all to sing-along. The band then rock out a powerhaus guitar ending, and then that's that for the night. "Thank you, Royal Oak, Michigan," Wetton salutes the crowd. "God Bless you. You've been fantastic tonight. Thank you all." The group bow together, all of them wave, but still there's no shaking with the hyperactive front row's now extended arms. They then all leave the stage - in triumph.
Review & Photos by: Russell A. Trunk