Being a loyal Asia follower I am always keen to discover any new release this legendary UK quartet comes up with. Who can forget 1982 when the band burst into the scene with their self-titled debut that hosted worldwide hits such as Heat Of The Moment and Only Time Will Tell. A few other albums (Alpha, Astra) followed this hit packed wonder but the same success was never equaled and after a flurry of line up changes somewhere in the early nineties the band finally dismantled with the departure of singer/bass player John Wetton.
But no reason to mourn for the fans since founding member and keyboard legend Geoff Downes rejuvenated the band by introducing John Payne to the band. Under their rules a number of great, yet more progressive and bombastic albums like Aqua, Aria, Arena, Aura and Silent Nation followed. In 2007 the old Asia reunited, inspired by the collaboration between Wetton and Downes on their Icon projects, which led to the appropriately named album Phoenix.
Although I have lost count on the number of albums so far (studio, compilation and live) it's nevertheless still a pleasant challenge to listen to a new Asia album once more. This time the one on offer is a live recording named Spirit Of The Night, recorded in Cambridge UK in 2009 as part of the Phoenix tour and sees Asia perform in their original '82 line up consisting of Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer and John Wetton. Whether I am happy with this release is not an easy question.
As far as the performance is concerned I can only say yes. John Wetton's great and characteristic voice is still able to carry the songs throughout and the band sounds solid. More professional than sparkling though, but the recording captures the atmosphere really well. Only the keyboard sounds a bit distant now and then but it does not disturb the experience. Highlights are hard to pick since the show is quite an even affair, but both My Own Time and Midnight Sun have not featured on many Asia live shows but remind me of how good these songs actually are. A real surprise listing is the powerful Asia version of Emerson Lake and Palmer's Fanfare For The Common Man. Clearly with thanks to drummer Carl Palmer who steps in the spotlight on a drum solo.
On the other hand, looking at the track list a familiar deja-vu pops up. It's clear the band has chosen to recycle the old crackers once more whereas I feel there were good reasons to put in some more of the new ones apart from Never Again and An Extraordinary Life. Maybe the band should have waited a few more months and release a live album including tracks of their 2010 release Omega. That way they could have shown the world even more what the reincarnated Asia is capable of on stage. An Asia album is never a rip off, certainly when performed like this, but the track list of Spirit Of The Night leaves it more an item for the hard core fans. I hope the next live album is not a copy of this one with two tracks from Omega. A missed opportunity.
An Asia album is never a rip off, certainly when performed like this, but the track list of Spirit Of The Night leaves it more an item for the hard core fans. I hope the next live album is not a copy of this one with two tracks from Omega. A missed opportunity.