May 6th, 2008

Asia, SF

Through some bizarre coincidence, I've been to concerts by two of my favorite artists in the last three days. On Saturday, I saw Dream Theater in Oakland (lovely picture here), and this past evening, I saw Asia in San Francisco.

Most people probably know Asia as the '80s melodic/progressive rock band responsible for the mega-hit "Heat Of The Moment" (which, come to think of it, is mysteriously missing from KOC's karaoke list...), along with a few other semi-hits.

As far as pop culture is concerned, Asia quickly dropped off the map a few years later; but they've actually been around in some form pretty much consistently since then. For a long time, the only remaining original member was the keyboardist, who forged a partnership with a new vocalist/bassist; the two of them collaborated with various guitarists and drummers to produce a steady string of albums throughout the 90s and early 2000s. Sure, there wasn't pop-chart-climbing success, but an enthusiastic and dedicated fan base eagerly snapped up each new release.

Well, for some reason, the original lineup decided to reunite a couple years ago, and launch a reunion tour, followed by a new album and now another tour. It appears to have been rather unfair, actually; it seems the other vocalist/bassist got kicked unceremoniously to the side after so many years of being a part of Asia. But the actual details were never made public, so who knows.

What a lot of people don't realize is that Asia's original four members were alumni of other highly successful acts. Steve Howe came from Yes, Carl Palmer came from Emerson Lake & Palmer, John Wetton came from King Crimson, and Geoff Downes came from The Buggles (and I'm sure everybody has heard their one big hit, "Video Killed The Radio Star").

Anyway, with that brief history in mind, one might understand why I jumped on the opportunity. I'd never seen Asia in concert before, other than a small-scale acoustic performance by the keyboardist and now-former vocalist/bassist at the San Francisco Borders a few years back. And this could be the only chance I'll ever have.

Highlights:

  • I know this is far from being an original comment, but my god, Steve Howe looks so old. Seriously. Compare some of the images from the following two links:

    Striking similarity, no? (Be sure not to be fooled by older pictures of Steve Howe; he didn't look quite so awful a couple decades ago.)

  • Carl Palmer, on the other hand, has aged surprisingly well. John Wetton and Geoff Downes look about as you might expect.

  • John Wetton still has a really powerful voice. He's hardly lost anything in the last 25 years. His singing really made me sit up and take notice repeatedly during the show.

  • A bunch of people felt the need to give a standing ovation after every damn song. This included the people directly in front of me. As you might imagine, I consequently spent a lot of time standing as well -- just so I could see.

  • The seating was very, shall we say, "intimate." Just think "airplane, economy section." Two guys in front of me (two of the "standers") were each taking up 1.5 seats. Literally. With their asses. I didn't have that luxury; my row was fully occupied.

  • As part of the set, they played one song from each member's previous band. It was really amusing to hear Asia perform "Video Killed The Radio Star," given that Asia generally takes itself fairly seriously, musically, whereas that song is pure silly/playful pop.


But the epitome of the entire evening had to have been when:

  • The guy sitting next to me turned to me and said:
    You look awfully young to be at an Asia concert!