The Heat and the Beat goes On!

By David Iozzia
Photos by John Grubb

What a party it was in Red Bank, New Jersey, at the Count Basie Theatre! The historic venue hosted one helluva concert recently when the 80’s rock supergroup ASIA made a tour stop in Monmouth County to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its multi-platinum debut album. With all four original members back in the lineup for their “reunion tour,” ASIA brought plenty of party favors with them: a couple racks of keyboards, tons of drums, a whole lotta guitars, and an incredible setlist of classic material.

The Red Bank performance was sandwiched between a two-night run in New York City and sold-out shows in suburban Philadelphia, Chicago, and Milwaukee. The Count Basie Theatre, with its incredible acoustics, sightlines, and fan-friendly atmosphere, is the perfect venue to attend a concert. Convenient parking and dozens of good restaurants in walking distance are an added bonus.

ASIA opened their rockin’ first set with “Time Again” from their self-titled debut album. That song, and its ironic title, was the perfect choice since this lineup hasn’t played together onstage since 1983. Other versions of the band have toured Europe and North America over the last 20 years, yet ASIA’s original lineup is the definitive one. John Wetton, the bassist and vocalist, has stated that “We’ve waited a long time to put the original lineup back together once again.” ASIA’s fans have also waited a long time for another opportunity to see the band’s original lineup. Judging by the crowd’s enthusiasm in Red Bank and the fan reviews of other performances that I’ve read on the Internet, it was worth the wait! Let’s hope that the band keeps playing.

Every song from the debut album was performed, including the hits “Heat of the Moment,” “Only Time Will Tell,” “Wildest Dreams,” and “Sole Survivor.” Two songs from the follow-up album “Alpha” were played during an unplugged section of the show: “Don’t Cry” and “The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.” But it was a more rockin’ song from that record that had the fans standing, cheering, and staring with their mouths agape. “The Heat Goes On” was easily one of the show’s highlights, and it included an incredible drum solo by Carl Palmer. Part-magician and part-machine, Palmer powered his way through the solo and reminded everyone in attendance that his name still belongs high atop anyone’s listing of world-class rock drummers.

In addition to ASIA’s material, each band member selected a song from previous bands they’ve played in. Lead guitarist Steve Howe chose “Roundabout” from the Yes album “Fragile” and “The Clap” from “The Yes Album.” Carl Palmer picked Emerson. Lake and Palmer’s classic “Fanfare For The Common Man,” which was originally written by classical composer Aaron Copland. John Wetton sang vocals through a megaphone for keyboard player Geoff Downes’ novelty hit with The Buggles, “Video Killed The Radio Star.” Best known as the first-ever MTV video, that song was an obvious choice by Downes, yet a most curious song was selected by John Wetton. He’s played in so many different bands: Roxy Music, U.K., Uriah Heep, and King Crimson. With countless songs to choose from, Wetton picked King Crimson’s “In The Court of the Crimson King.” Since Wetton was not part of the King Crimson lineup who recorded that song, I felt “Starless” or “Book of Saturday” would have been a more fitting choice.

The response and enthusiasm of North American audiences hopefully demonstrated to ASIA that there is still a market for their style of rock music. Geoff Downes has been quoted that “we’ve all remained dedicated to our craft of making compelling and powerful music.” ASIA’s onstage chemistry, new attitude, and stellar musicianship thrilled thousands of North American fans playing powerful music on their 2006 reunion tour. Runs through England and Japan are next on their schedule.

Speaking not only for myself, but for scores of rock fans worldwide, I hope that ASIA takes it to the next level. Writing and recording new material is very challenging in today’s music marketplace. Too many bands take the easy road , continuing to tour while playing their classic songs and cover versions of other band’s material. I hope that ASIA takes the road less traveled: the road to a recording studio with a truckload of new material.

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