Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Heat of the Moment

There was a side benefit to the Willie Nelson concert that we saw a couple of weekends ago - I got a chance to take a look at the Keswick's schedule of events for the foreseeable future. There was one thing that caught my eye; the 30th anniversary tour of Asia, one of my favorite bands growing up. They are touring with the original lineup. John Wetton on bass and vocals (from King Crimson). Steve Howe on guitar (from Yes). Carl Palmer on drums (From Emerson Lake and Palmer). And Geoff Downes on keyboards (from Yes, and the Buggles - "Video Killed the Radio Star" - the very first video ever played on MTV).

Asia certainly had immense MTV-driven popularity for a short period of time, especially in 1982-1983, in the middle of my high school years. For a while, you couldn't turn on MTV without seeing one of a half dozen videos, and they were played on the radio constantly. Among my friends, there seem to be two schools of thought on them; great band, or sellout pop supergroup. I suppose both are true. There is no denying that all four were fantastic musicians with terrific pedigrees, but it is also hard to deny that the music (as complicated as it is technically in many places) was entirely catering to the pop market. I obviously come down more on the side of "great band". I have always liked the kind of music that some would find over-produced; melodic stuff with layered harmonies, lush keyboards and all that. "Pretty" songs. These guys certainly did that, and mixed in some amazing musicianship while they were at it.

Remembering this band, it has been fun going back and finding all the old songs and videos on YouTube, like Heat of the Moment, Sole Survivor, Only Time Will Tell (recent live version here), Don't Cry, Open Your Eyes, The Last to Know, and Wildest Dreams. Or lesser known songs that I aways liked such as Daylight. It's interesting that many of the best live videos of Asia from back then are lifted from the 1983 "Asia in Asia" concert from Japan that was broadcast on on the radio and shown on MTV (featuring Greg Lake in John Wetton's place). Not surprising I guess, since this was way before the iPhone days when every second of live music is captured and posted so fast it's virtually streaming.

As always, looking at anything on YouTube sends you down a rathole of time spent following trails to all sorts of other stuff, such as Steve Howe, the guitarist, playing some of his classic acoustic songs from his years with Yes (and yes, he does look like Elrond from TLotR movies...).

Of course, no trip through YouTube would be complete without a check-in on what my all-time favorite band of 70-year-olds sounds like these days, so check here for a 2012 version (with not great sound quality) of a classic song. Or this one (with good sound). Or Driftwood, a song they rarely play.

So... other than a trip down memory lane, what's the point? Four seats to Asia's 30th anniversary tour in the 7th row, dead center, at the Keswick Theater on October 20. I can't wait.

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