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Prog rock supergroup
still shines

House of Blues
Chicago, IL
July 5, 2007
Asia Asia Asia

Story and photos by Andy Argyrakis

When Asia first formed in 1982, the pop/phase two prog rockers were immediately dubbed a supergroup thanks to a core four that included King Crimson's John Wetton, Yes' Steve Howe, Emerson, Lake & Palmer's Carl Palmer and The Buggles' Geoff Downes. Though the line-up has been a revolving door beyond the band's first two initial albums, this year marks the 25th anniversary of its inception, making it perfect timing to follow in the reunion footsteps of fellow Englishmen Genesis and The Police. And after a 90-minute romp through the collective's early years, plus nods to the bands in which members first found fame, the gap in between touring cycles literally seemed erased.

Despite the age of the material (and members- some of whom have aged better than others) there was nothing stale about the set list and invigorated presentations, which followed quite closely to the band's stellar new double disc Fantasia Live In Tokyo (Eagle Records). The band hit hard early with the stadium filling fist pumper "Sole Survivor" and the mid-tempo ballad "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes," demonstrating finely tuned instrumental precision and an uncanny chemistry that's been remarkably preserved even after so many years apart.

Hearing those selections, along with even older material from the four original acts that formed Asia, also drew accessible links to the current progressive rock revival. When Howe broke into Yes' standard "Roundabout," it was evident his fast action fingering and cerebral chord structuring has rubbed off on younger acts such as Porcupine Tree or The Mars Volta. Similar patterns could be traced throughout "In the Court of the Crimson King" and ELP's interpretation of the famed classical piece "Fanfare For the Common Man," which also steered clear of self-indulgence for relatively succinct versions. While The Buggles' weren't part of the same graduating class, the late 70s new-wavers were also history makers by having the first song ever broadcast on MTV. To pay tribute to that era, Downes tossed on a silver jacket reminiscent of the futuristic video as clips played on a trio of hanging screens.

Yet the show's home stretch truly took faithful down memory lane, mixing up the order from the current live album and delivering back to back versions of the band's biggest hits. "The Heat Goes On" kicked off the parade, followed by "Only Time Will Tell," which was ironically the old adage fans clung tightly to for so many years in hopes of this reunion. But the foursome proved it was well worth the wait come resplendent versions of "Don't Cry" and the fitting finale "Heat of the Moment," extended to nearly nine minutes, but tastefully executed as an electrifying jam session. For those who missed the experience first hand, there's always the aforementioned audio souvenir, which simultaneously serves as a soundtrack for those wanting to relive the experience until a DVD of that same Tokyo show hits streets this fall.

Asia Asia

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