There is a real divide and some hostility among ASIA fans about John Payne's decade long run as the bassist/vocalist of the band. Around 1990, John Wetton left the band to begin a solo career, Carl Palmer went back to ELP and Steve Howe returned to YES leaving Geoffrey Downes to either fold the band or continue. Choosing to keep ASIA going, he enlisted John Payne and in 1992 ASIA released the amazing AQUA album. Payne and Downes (with a succession of musicians) would release 6 albums of new material before the original band would reform in 2007. As part of a legal settlement, Payne would continue as ASIA featuring John Payne and be able to tour and record. Last Friday night I finally got to see and hear ASIA featuring John Payne live and well.... I was so impressed!
Playing at the Atrium Bar and Lounge at the Foxwoods Resort and Casino in Connecticut, ASIA featuring John Payne played an incredible 14 song set mixing classic ASIA with some of the best songs from his run. Obviously the casual ASIA fan wants to hear Heat Of The Moment, Go, Don't Cry and Only Time Will Tell, and we got those. But, many of us die hard followers were hoping to hear Payne classics like Military Man, Long Way From Home, Who Will Stop The Rain and Silent Nation and the band didn't disappoint. A solid set list that really gave everyone what they wanted.
Joining Payne was longtime guitarist Moni Scaria who was so smooth and fluid with his playing, he made it look so effortlessly. The two new guys, (Springfield, MA's own) keyboardist Jamie Hosmer and drummer Johnny Fedevich both had some big shoes to fill and musically and pulled everything off with style and power. As for the man himself, Payne displayed his skills around the bass and vocally put on display his never aging powerful voice.
As I document in my upcoming book, ASIA - TIME AND TIME AGAIN, if you only know the John Wetton led version of the band, than you are missing half the history of ASIA. Payne's run gave the band a bit of heaviness and progression and I am so thankful I not only got to see the band (and the sound check) but I got to spend some time with John and Moni which made the show even that much more special.
ASIA featuring John Payne is currently on tour with Lou Gramm.
How far will I travel for a great concert in a cool venue? 3 hours to Madison Square Garden to see Electric Light Orchestra... 90 minutes for a zillion shows at the Wolf Den... 2 hours to Poughkeepsie, NY for Stryper or Last In Line? How about 15 minutes for Dokken/Last In Line? SOLD!!!!
Kicking off a new venue and a new summer event at the MGM called MGM Live On The Plaza were two of my favorite bands, Last In Line and Dokken. It was exciting to see a major venue start their inaugural run with bands that mean a lot to me and judging by the attendance, so many other people, too. As someone who has waved the flag most of his life for hard rock and heavy metal, it's refreshing that MGM look at these bands as legitimate and viable enough to start it all!!!!
First off the bands!!!! To read what I thought about Last In Line, just read the story below from last week because nothing has changed... except i'm an even bigger fan now!!!! They had an abbreviated set and took full advantage of every second... winning the crowd over and giving them a show featuring some of the best players in the business. Thank you Andrew, Vivian, Phil and Vinnie!!!!
Having not seen Dokken since 1986, I was excited to not only see and hear some of my favorite music ever, but see a few friends (Chris McCarvill (bass) and BJ Zampa (drums) joining longtime guitarist Jon Levin and the legendary Don Dokken! Despite the fact that Don can't hit the notes like he used to, the show was an awesome collection of timeless songs presented with a lot of energy and power. The most important takeaway was that the fans really enjoyed the set and so did the band. And, Don Dokken is pure attitude!!!!
So lets talk about the venue. On The Plaza has an amazing look to it, with brick everywhere and "the Castle" at one end, giving it such a distinct appearance and feel. The outdoor venue has a large cover over it, giving it a real intimate feel (and keeping you cool and or dry) but allows air to circulate and of course, no crazy hot or stale standing room only pit... just comfortable.
But, what I was worried about was the sound. How would the acoustics be? How would the sound play off all the brick and no real walls? From every part of the area, all the way to the far back, the sides, the concourse, behind the stage and even in the photo pit (I know sad me, eh), the sound was not only perfectly balanced, but clear and clean. And just so you know... I legitimately walked the entire area trying to find a spot where the music didn't carry well... and I couldn't, except the bathroom, but that is to be expected.
AND.... how can I forget some real cool restaurants and free easy in and out parking!!!!!! WIN-WIN!
A full calendar of events including more of my favorites (Village People, Firehouse and Warrant) can be seen by clicking here .
So congrats to everyone at MGM Springfield for their first concert On The Plaza being a huge success with the bands, the fans and with me. With so many boxes to check when it comes to creating a solid and memorable live event these days, you guys did it all... and a little more.
In 2012, Last In Line was formed by the musicians who made the music from the first three DIO albums; HOLY DIVER, LAST IN LINE and SACRED HEART. Wanting to play the music they were so much a part of, Vivian Campbell (guitar), Jimmy Bain (bass) and Vinnie Appice (drums) teamed up with vocalist Andrew Freeman to perform live and ultimately release their debut album, HEAVY CROWN. Sadly in 2016 Jimmy Pain passed away and brought in was bassist Philip Soussan who would join the band on their latest album II and the current tour they are on in support. And that brings us up to date...
On Saturday night I took a pilgrimage to The Chance Theater in Poughkeepsie, NY to see the Last In Line, meet the guys and see some amazing players I have never seen before live, any of them! What I got for almost 90 minutes was a high energy show, with some amazing music, fantastic playing and four guys who really enjoy what they are doing and making music together.
The band's set was a mix of classic DIO and tracks from the bands two albums and it just flowed perfectly. New songs like Landslide, Year of The Gun and Give Up The Ghost fit in perfectly with the old like Straight Through The Heart, We Rock and Evil Eyes. As brilliant as they played the thing that I took away from their performance was the fun they were having and how they all just enjoyed what they were doing. There were some hysterical moments like this huge build-up to Rainbow In The Dark that ended with Vivian Campbell instead tuning his guitar and there was the emotional intro from Phil Soussan for the song Starmaker dedicated to Jimmy Bain.
Musically you got what you would expect from such talented and well rounded musicians!!! Vinnie Appice plays with such thunder on a very small kit, Soussan is one of the best bass players I have ever seen or heard live and Campbell was able to play the songs he helped create and be the guitar hero!
For me, all eyes and ears were on Andrew Freeman. How would he sound doing the very demanding Dio material and how would he play it on stage? Vocally Freeman has it all, an incredible range for the high notes and is an excellent front man, playing with the zealous crowd and his band mates on stage. It isn't easy singing songs with the legacy of Ronnie James Dio but Freeman not only delivered, but made them his own.
With the band still on the road, I encourage you... no BEG you to check them out then they come to your town. Last In Line are performing this Saturday with Dokken at the MGM Springfield, MA and I will be there along with anyone I can drag to check out... dare I say it... one of the best bands I have ever seen live... and that says a lot because I have seen them all. But, this time i'll remember to get a shirt!!!!
Last In Line - http://www.lastinlineofficial.com/
Also, a big shout out to Shaggy and Vinnie for keeping the ship afloat.
The Power Chords Podcast is a twice-monthly podcast celebrating rock and metal music of the '70s, '80s, '90s and beyond. The show is co-hosted by Matt Herring and Brian LeTendre.