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Asia

Live In Philadelphia

Review by Greg Olma

Asia has been around for quite some time, and I think they are one of the few bands that has more live releases than studio albums.  Not that that is a bad thing, but sometimes it can be a daunting task in deciding which live record is worth getting.  Back in 1997, the Blueprint label released three concerts as a set from the early John Payne era of the band, and all of them are very good soundboard or audience recordings.  The sound quality is not as “produced” as most live releases, but that is the charm of these discs.  The rawness of these recordings is what makes them special, and I would highly recommend getting your hands on this one in particula,r as I feel it  has the most energy.


This review is available in book (paperback and hardcover) form in Music Street Journal: 2020  Volume 5. More information and purchase links can be found at: garyhillauthor.com/Music-Street-Journal-2020.

Track by Track Review
Disc 1:

                 

Go

The track starts off with a short little intro, but then the band launch into this great rendition of the Astra track.  Right off the bat, they seem like they are on a mission to win over the crowd and they play this one with a lot of energy, and the performance is electric (I know that sounds cliché but I don’t know how else to describe it).

Geoff Downes Introduces The Band...
Just as the title suggests, Geoff Downes introduces this new version of the band.
Lay Down Your Arms
Since this was the Aqua tour, the guys play their first single.  This version is a little heavier than the studio release, but that usually happens when you take a track and put it in a live setting.  They do stay very close to the original feel, and it shows the level of skill that these musicians have with regard to duplicating their music in concert.
Rock And Roll Dream
They take a step back again to a tune from the Astra album.  Since they really didn’t tour for that record, it makes sense to showcase some that material.  While it is a good tune, it has a Meatloaf vibe to me, which I think makes it an odd song for Asia.  The verses are cool and heavy (well, heavy for Asia), but the chorus has that Meatloaf sound.  I like this heavier version more than its studio counterpart.
Love Under Fire
Aqua still stands as one of the underrated Asia records, and hearing the material performed live just reaffirms that sentiment.   They play this mellow tune pretty much exactly like the album version.  Although it is mellow, there is a great guitar solo in the middle.
Little Rich Boy
More Aqua material is performed because this is that tour, and this a new band, so why not showcase both.  This is a rocking tune that they extend an extra three minutes over the studio version with a cool keyboard and guitar interplay tacked onto the end.  While the tune has that newer Asia sound, there are still some great elements from the old version of the band.
Geoff Downes Introduces Steve Howe...
Steve Howe gets introduced by his Yes bandmate Geoff Downes.
Aqua Part 1
This is the opening track on the Aqua record, and it is a cool intro, but I feel it needs to have “Who Will Stop The Rain?” performed right after, and on this show they separated the tracks. That makes no sense to me, but they do perform it well.
The Heat Goes On
The band go a little further back to the Alpha disc for this rousing little rocker.  The band perform it perfectly and, like the opening track “Go," this one has a lot of energy to the performance, and they seem like they are having a great time on stage.
Don’t Cry
Keeping with the Alpha theme, the band perform this single off of the record. Like the previous song, they give it that little bit extra at this concert.  You can clearly tell the difference between the material that was written by the two different versions of the band.  This has that bouncy Asia sound that the first two releases contained and is in contrast to the newer material.
Someday
This Aqua track is performed close to the original but it has a little bit more passion put in the performance.  It is a thumping rocker of a tune that contains some nice elements thrown in the middle with nice guitar and keyboard work.
Steve Howe Acoustic Guitar Solo Galliard, Mood For A Day, The Ancient, Clap
Steve Howe is a master guitar player and in this concert is given a lengthy solo spot where he performs some of his more recognizable acoustic guitar pieces.
Disc 2:
 
Wildest Dreams

The band finally reach back to the first album with this rousing rocker that is performed perfectly with a bit of extra energy thrown in for good measure.  Payne does a great job vocally on this older track.

Back In Town
Things start off with some twangy guitar before the rest of the band join in on this strutting rocker off the Aqua record.  It has a very infectious chorus, and the guitar work is really up front and prominent on this track.
Open Your Eyes
On the Aqua tour, the band switched a number of tracks in and out of the set list, and this is one that they didn’t always play.  It is a great addition to the set and shows that this version of the band were able to not only pay homage to the older material, but that they also had some new sounds that fit with the overall Asia theme.  While it wasn’t my favorite on the album upon its release, I have grown to really like this rocker.
Who Will Stop The Rain?
I’m not quite sure why this was performed so late after “Aqua part 1,” but it is a great tune.  This is a much better version that one on Live In Osaka from the same series.  At this concert, the band seem more enthusiastic during this performance, and they hold true to the original version.  Aside from having it disconnected from the intro, the band do a great job with this track.
Only Time Will Tell
They close the show (before the encore) with this hit from the first album.  Payne does a great job vocally, which is difficult since the original is iconic.  As with most of the show, the band is very energized during this mid-tempo rocker.
Sole Survivor
The first album gets more stage time with this song that was not always in the set list.  At this concert, the band adds a few more minutes of instrumentation to the end, making this hit over seven-minutes long.  There are guitar elements that remind me of Yes more than on the original.
Heat Of The Moment
As with most concerts, the biggest hits are saved for the last song of the encore, and this concert is no exception.  The band almost double the length of the original song with added guitar work, and the guys seem to be feeding off the enthusiastic crowd by pumping up this version.  This is the type of performance that makes you wish you were at the concert.
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