It's with no small degree of sadness that I come to write this review. A mere nine days ago, Asia founding member, bass player, and vocalist, John Wetton succumbed to his battle with colon cancer. He died peacefully in his sleep. Our thoughts and prayers go out to his family, friends, and the many musicians he worked and performed with. Wetton will be remembered as progressive music pioneer from his work with Asia, King Crimson, and others. Now on to the music at hand.
A live event from 2013, Symfonia was recorded and filmed at the IInd Century Roman Theater in Plovdiv Bulgaria, where on several songs Asia was joined by The Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Levon Manukian. It's a rather short set, 77 minutes and 14 songs, notably promoting material from XXX, but also their most famous hits. Also of note, in the same year original guitarist Steve Howe left the band to focus on Yes and other projects. He's replaced by the young guitar sensation Sam Coulson, discovered by the band from his YouTube page.
Visually, the video content is unspectacular. That's to say, aside from a variety of camera angles and some crowd shots, the focus of the filming was on the band and individual performances. And there's nothing visually fascinating about this Asia performance, even the lighting is rather conservative. Essentially, the musicians and the music take center stage. Sonically then, the sound is nearly pristine and flawless in recording. Every instrument is heard with clarity, and Wetton's smooth melodic voice is always prominent.
Regarding "symfonia" part, the orchestra joins the band in the latter half of the set. (In the CD package this is easily distinguish in the second of the two CDs.) The songs getting the orchestral embellishment include Only Time Will Tell, Don't Cry, Heroine, The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, Wildest Dreams, and Heat Of The Moment. Suffice to say, they all sound amazing with the addition of the lush symphonic layer.
Bottom line: Symfonia finds Asia in fine melodic progressive rock form, with the orchestra only adding more color and vibrant to this stunning live set. Easily recommended.
Symfonia finds Asia in fine melodic progressive rock form, with the orchestra only adding more color and vibrant to this stunning live set. Easily recommended.
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