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Live In Osaka

Review by Greg Olma

This double CD set is a nice live show from the Aqua tour in Japan.  While some might say it sounds like a good bootleg (which I think is accurate), I still feel that is a worthwhile live representation of the “new” Asia that was led by John Payne.  This label released a number of live shows from Asia in 1997, and all of them are worth getting.  If you are an audiophile, you may be a bit disappointed by the quality but if you want to sit back and imagine yourself at the show, then this will do just fine.

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Track by Track Review
Disc 1:

The show starts off with a bit of an intro before the band launch into this classic track from the often overlooked Astra record.  Payne does a great job with all the older Asia material, and this one is no exception.  This a really spirited version, and I prefer it to the studio release.

Band Intro
I have no idea as to why they gave the band introductions their own track on the CD but there you go.
Lay Down Your Arms
As with most recordings, the live version usually is a bit heavier.  Here, I feel the guitars are more pronounced than on the studio version.  This being the tour to support Aqua, from which this song is culled, they do a very exact rendition and, aside from the guitars, the tune sounds like the album version.
Love Under Fire
Keeping with the Aqua theme (this was the tour to support that record so why wouldn’t they?), the band play another very exact version of the studio cut.  It is a mellow song that has a nice Asia sound with Payne’s vocals being different, but fitting in perfectly.
Rock And Roll Dreams
Since the band really didn’t tour for Astra, it only makes sense that they would want to showcase some of the material from that disc.  As with the earlier “Go," this new line-up does a great job with this track that starts off slow but builds into a chorus that reminds me a little of Meatloaf.  It is a good tune, and hearing these live renditions made me revisit the studio album (although I like these versions better).
Geoff Downes Solo
I am not much into solo spots, but Downes keeps my attention with his keyboard pyrotechnics.
Video Killed The Radio Star
Downes continues his solo spot with a keyboard only rendition of the Buggles hit.  While it is great that he pays homage to where it started for him, Asia had a wealth of material at this point so it is kind of unnecessary.
Little Rich Boy
Bringing the show back to the present, the band perform one of the straight-ahead rockers off of Aqua.  This song was initially left off of the US release, which is a shame because it is one of the better tracks on the record.  Like I mentioned, it is a straight-up rocker with some great lead guitar work.
Voice Of America
The Astra album makes another appearance with this mellow cut.  I was never a fan of this tune, even when it came out, but I guess they wanted to showcase their previously forgotten disc.  There isn’t much to this track, and I feel that it slowed down the pace of the show.
Aqua Part 1
Thankfully, things pick up with the opening instrumental of their latest (at that time) record.  It is a moody piece that really acts as a prelude to the next track.
Who Will Stop The Rain?
I don’t know if it’s me or the recording, but this version of the song sounds a bit lifeless, which is a shame because the studio rendition really rocks.  Here is seems almost stripped down and not as full.  I would recommend buying Aqua for the definitive version of this tune.
Disc 2:
Wildest Dreams

Steve Howe introduces this walk down memory lane with a great version of this Asia track.  The band seem to be really pumped playing this oldie, and Payne does a great job with the vocals.

Back In Town
This strutting rocker off of Aqua is played with a bit of fire.  “Who Will Stop The Rain?” would have benefitted from the same enthusiasm given this tune.  There is some great lead guitar work in this version as well.
Don’t Cry
Payne does a good job with the vocals on this one, as well.  John Wetton has such an iconic voice that it is hard to step in his shoes, but Payne manages to fit his vocal style perfectly into this pop/pomp track from Alpha.
Some Day
This tune is misprinted on the sleeve notes as two words but no matter, this thumping rocker is performed perfectly.  It is another Aqua tune, and they do a nice rendition.  They keep to the studio version closely but they perform it with a little bit of extra passion.
Steve Howe Solo
Howe performs an acoustic solo spot that incorporate bits and pieces from past solo performances.  While it is good, six minutes is too long for me.  Maybe if I was at the show watching the piece being performed it would have stood out more but here it falls flat.
The Voice Of Reason
This Aqua tune starts off very mellow but a little more than half way through it launches into a thumping rock tune.  They do a great version here, and Payne in particular shines.
Only Time Will Tell
Most people were probably introduced to Asia with this cut.  Payne channels a bit of Wetton in his vocal delivery.  Instead of trying to make it his own, he gives the audience exactly what they want, a representation of the studio version.  Again, the band play this one with some fire and enthusiasm.
The Heat Goes On
Keeping things upbeat, the band play this Alpha hit by staying true to the original sound but giving a little more heft for the live setting.
A Far Cry
The show ends with another Aqua rocker that is performed perfectly.  While it is a great tune, they would have been better off ending the show with the previous two tracks.  This is a song that deserves to be in the set, just not at the end.
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