ASIA burst onto the rock n’ roll landscape when I was but a wee lad. I can remember sitting around all day watching MTV and waiting for either “Heat of the Moment” or “Only Time Will Tell” to come on. Even after they did, I still sat glued hoping to see them again sooner rather than later. My uncle purchased that self-titled debut for me as a birthday present in 1982 and I played the Hell out of it whenever I could. I also became obsessed with the “Don’t Cry” video from their second record Alpha, but I lost touch with the band after that. These things happen.
So, imagine my surprise when I received a CD in the mail…British Live Performance Series: ASIA, out now via Rainman Records. Wow, talk about a blast from the past, right? And by past I mean a pair of sold-out concerts from 1990, recorded at the Moscow Olympijski Stadium. With a lineup boasting John Wetton (bass, vocals), Carl Palmer (drums), Geoff Downes (keyboards), and new member Pat Thrall (guitars), thirteen ASIA classics are represented here. Some I knew right off the bat, while others were foreign to me.
Opening with a pair of gems from the debut, “Wildest Dreams” and “Sole Survivor”, the band is off and running, everything sounding tight, and Wetton in fine voice. This is especially true during “Don’t Cry,” a song that actually sounds better than its studio counterpart because it is less polished. Wetton nails those end refrains, too. “Voice of America” from 1985’s Astra is one I was unfamiliar with, but it’s a good tune. “Time Again” shows up next, dipping its toe into the prog waters while still maintaining a rock edge.
From the yet-to-be-released at the time Then and Now album the guys wheeled out new track “Prayin’ 4 a Miracle” before continuing with vintage numbers like “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes” (Wetton on acoustic), the aforementioned “Only Time Will Tell” (which sounds AWESOME!), and another new one in “Days Like These.” Pat Thrall really does a remarkable job on these songs and puts his own stamp on the guitar parts where appropriate. “The Heat Goes On” is one of the more rockin’ cuts and again sounds a bit more ballsy than the version on record.
We revisit Astra with “Go” before the double whammy ending of “Heat of the Moment” and “Open Your Eyes” closes the show and takes us back to the Golden Days of Yesteryear one last time. I have to say this is a pretty good live record from a band of well-seasoned musicians. The only issue I have is that you never once hear the crowd get into it. I’m not sure why that is, but to me the most important part of a live recording is the audience being as much a part of the show as the group, and I just didn’t get that from this one. Still a cool trip down memory lane, though.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “Only Time Will Tell”, “Don’t Cry”, “Days Like These”, “Heat of the Moment”