Everyone at HRH Mag was deeply saddened to hear of John Wetton’s passing in the early hours of this morning.
As huge Asia fans – we’ve had the new Symfonia live album on repeat all week – it feels like another desperately sad day for rock.
But Wetton leaves a wonderful legacy and a lifetime of memories. So we dug this one out from the night HRH Mag’s Andy Spoors caught Asia on Tyneside two years ago. Enjoy.
Asia – Sage Gateshead, October 28 2014
The 80s was the era for melodic, progressive rock. It gave birth to some of the biggest names in the genre’s history. Many bands hit their peak. And so-called ‘supergroups’ formed right, left and centre.
One of the most popular was Asia. Born from select members of King Crimson, Yes, Emerson, Lake and Palmer and The Buggles, Asia’s debut album even outsold Thriller in 1982.
But tucked away in the intimate and humble surroundings of Sage Gateshead’s smaller hall, the rock dynasty played to a small and adoring audience belying the band’s superstar status yet suitably passionate and fully committed.
Technical difficulties slightly delayed proceedings with lead singer and bass player John Wetton enduring some awkward but playful heckling. But launching into early hit Sole Survivor, it wasn’t long before this accomplished quartet had the crowd back onside.
Technical problems were a re-occurring theme throughout the night with I Know How You Feel bearing the brunt of popping speakers. To their credit the band played on unmoved – a testimony to the wealth of experience and professionalism gained over the years.
One of the most impressive moments of the night was a stripped back mini-acoustic set, with Voice Of America and The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, in particular, providing the perfect platform for Wetton’s voice to soar. The most remarkable realisation is that, over the years, Wetton’s voice has only changed slightly and sounds even better suited for AOR anthems and rock ballads.
It wasn’t a one-man show by any means with Carl Palmer receiving a full five-minute drum solo. Delivering a striking show of stamina and technique that would change the mind of even the biggest critic of a stick solo, Palmer dazzled the audience with quick hands and even faster thinking.
With nine keyboards to jaunt between, Geoff Downes was in his element, often playing two at a time and even reaching seven different boards in the space of one familiar anthem.
To the majority of the world, Asia may be a footnote in the pages of rock history. They may even be forever remembered as the punchline to a joke in 40 Year Old Virgin. But the hardy group of fans in attendance last night would disagree. A large proportion belted out every word with the band and still dress in tour t-shirts from a different era.
Covering four decades’ worth of albums in the space of two hours barely scratches the surface of the band’s vast back catalogue. But Asia celebrated their legacy in style.
A special mention has to go to new guitarist Sam Coulson, who threatened to steal the show with some astonishing fretwork, whilst barely breaking into a sweat. By the time biggest hit, Heat Of The Moment, closed the show all eyes were on Coulson and he certainly didn’t disappoint.
Images by John Burrows