Tuesday, November 13, 2012

ASIA delivers inspired set at The Coach House

My review originally ran on The Orange County Register site on Monday, Nov. 12, 2012. A special "thank you" to photographer Bob Steshetz for the use of his fantastic images captured at the ASIA concert.

Guitarist Steve Howe, singer-bassist John Wetton and drummer Carl Palmer.
When the four original members of Asia reformed in 2006, even the most devoted fans of the ’80s-spawned supergroup likely had little idea how strong the quartet’s return would be. Over the past six years, singer-bassist John Wetton, guitarist Steve Howe, drummer Carl Palmer and keyboardist Geoff Downes — all veterans of prog-rock spanning King Crimson to Yes — have released a trio of winning albums including 2012′s aptly-titled XXX marking the 30th anniversary of the British band’s eponymous debut.

Geoff Downes on keyboards and backing vocals.
Sunday night (Nov. 11, 2012) before a packed Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, Asia delivered an inspired set of old and new material, much of it seasoned with that mix of virtuoso chops, singalong choruses and inventive arrangements that have been a hallmark of the group’s approach since the beginning.

Many veteran performers who resume careers after extended hiatuses find audiences only want to hear classic hits. The audience that filled the Coach House, however, cheered throughout the 110-minute concert, quick to welcome recent material like the stirring “An Extraordinary Life” (off 2008′s Phoenix) and the fiery “Holy War” (from 2010′s Omega).

Early set highlights included “Wildest Dreams,” featuring Palmer’s astounding drumming, and “Tomorrow the World,” an XXX standout that boasts a straightforward rock feel in the verses but unfurls into an instrumental bridge that had Howe and Downes blending their instruments in a sonic dance as the song soared.

Almost every piece showcased skills from a member or two, but there wasn’t the kind of excessive soloing that can bore. “Cutting It Fine,” boasting a neoclassical symphonic section and an extended Howe spotlight, fused together perfectly. A rousing version of “Sole Survivor” outdistanced the original studio recording, with Wetton nailing his distinctive high notes in the choruses and the audience’s well-timed clapping in the bridge bringing an arena-like energy to the intimate club setting.

A lengthier version of “Heat of the Moment” closed the show, with the audience singing along and the band commanding their instruments with superhero-like craft.

Steve Howe played several instrumental works.
Asia’s six-years-and-counting second act has lasted much longer than the meteoric rise and flame-out that occurred when this quartet first worked together in the early ’80s. And by all indications this reunion doesn’t appear to be ending in the near-future.

“You’ve been a fantastic audience,” a visibly thrilled Wetton said during a brief breakdown in the midst of the final number. “We love playing here and we’ll see you soon.”

Set list: Asia at the Coach House, San Juan Capistrano, Nov. 12, 2012

Main set: Only Time Will Tell / Wildest Dreams / Face on the Bridge / Time Again / Tomorrow the World / Ride Easy / Winter from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (Steve Howe solo) / In the Course of the Day (Howe solo) / I Know How You Feel / Don’t Cry / The Smile Has Left Your Eyes / Cutting It Fine / Holy War / (Carl Palmer drum solo) / An Extraordinary Life / Here Comes the Feeling / Open Your Eyes

Encore: Sole Survivor / Heat of the Moment

1 comment:

newwavegeo said...

You definitely nailed it! Great show and review.