While my 13 year old son and I were walking around downtown Raleigh this past Tuesday evening, it was interesting to see the huge crowd of people heading for the Raleigh Amphitheater to see Maroon 5. We were headed in the opposite (less crowded) direction to see and hear classic 80′s pop/prog at its finest. That’s right, Asia in concert at the Raleigh Memorial Auditorium (Progress Energy Center).
Yes, I admit that it took a bit of convincing to get the 13 year old to agree to come with me and that’s understandable. I mean, these guys aren’t spring chickens by any means and are more likely to appear on the cover of AARP than Rolling Stone magazine. But come on, John Wetton, Carl Palmer, Geoff Downes and Steve Howe are legends of 70′s prog rock! And this was the FIRST time they’ve come to Raleigh so I just had to go to show my support as well as educate the young one on how *real rock musicians* play live.
And fortunately Asia did not disappoint. Yes, the members of Asia all look like your average “grandpa” but they can still ROCK. Wetton’s voice sounds stronger than ever – even singing the majority of the old 80′s tunes in their original key. Howe still amazes on the guitar. Downes has reduced the size of his keyboard rig but can still get those signature synths sounds we all know and love. And as for Palmer – man, he’s still a monster behind that double-bass drum kit. Yes, Palmer still has issues with tempo but when you’re there in the audience being pummeled by the mammoth wall of sound that the four of them create, tempo can blissfully be ignored.
highlights for me included: Palmer’s requisite drum solo – definitely worth the price of admission alone, “Holy War”, the unplugged version of “Don’t Cry”, “Time Again” and “Sole Survivor”. There were a few noticeable rough patches though. Wetton had a hard time remembering the words to “Days Like These” and had to use a prompter. and Howe fudged the signature riff during “Heat of the Moment”. But man, I still enjoyed the show regardless. As for my 13 year old – he gave me a thumbs up at the end of the night and I’ll accept that since he basically went along to please his old man. Hopefully concerts like this one will instill in him a reference point for what great musicianship is all about. It’s sad to think about but this level of musicianship may not be around when my son gets to be my age. Other random thoughts about the show:
- I wonder what they’re using to flesh out the harmonies during the big choruses especially since Howe and Palmer don’t sing. I suspect some real-time vocal harmonizer device of some sort.
- it was disappointing to see that the 2200 seat auditorium was a little over half full. I guess the concert promoter overestimated what Asia would draw here in Raleigh. It’s not the band’s fault since they don’t decide on the venues. but hopefully the promoter didn’t take too much of a hit for this gig.
- that being said, I like Memorial auditorium (except for the small bathrooms). The seats are nice, the staff is laidback and the section near the stage has plenty of room to move around.
- Geoff Downes didn’t have his keytar on this tour. I miss it.
- love the deep bass sound Wetton was getting with those Moog Taurus 3 bass pedals. it shook the building whenever it was used. nice!!
- Steve Howe had a Line6 Variax on a stand for the sitar sound. I personally didn’t think it was worth the trouble. the variax didn’t sound all that great. maybe a mix issue?
- and kudos to the band for including a healthy chunk of their new songs in the set list. I’m sure it’s easier just to rely on old favorites but the new stuff held their own. The set included 4 from Omega and 2 from Phoenix.