Celebrating the greatest in progressive music, THE ROYAL AFFAIR TOUR features the talents and music of YES, Carl Palmer's ELP Legacy (featuring Arthur Brown), John Lodge of the Moody Blues and the subject of this review.... ASIA! People who know me understand my love and obsession for this band also know how critical I can be of anyone but my late friend John Wetton singing these iconic songs. On this tour, the vocal duties have been handed to Ron 'Bumblefoot' Thal, an unexpected choice knowing his hard rock background, but a solid pick understanding his love and respect for the material.
Being part of a 'package' tour, ASIA only had a 10 song set and they took full advantage of their time on stage in White Plains, New York, wining over the crowd with every note. The first half of the set, original/founding members Geoffrey Downes (keyboards) and Carl Palmer (drums) were joined by Billy Sherwood (bass) and Bumblefoot on vocals AND guitar. Hitting the stage with Go, the band sounded perfect, but noticeably harder than before, possibly from Thal's fantastic playing. Following Don't Cry and an amazing version of Video Killed The Radio Star, ASIA performed a touching tribute to John Wetton with The Smile Has Left Your Eyes which was quite moving and of course didn't help the tears already running down my face. The first half ended with Lucky Man and a beautiful keyboard solo by Downes.
For the last four songs, all from their huge debut album, ASIA, the band were joined by founding/original member Steve Howe. Despite this being known, the fans went nuts, understanding the impact of having the three surviving founders on stage together. Finishing off with Wildest Dreams, Sole Survivor, Only Time Will Tell and of course, Heat Of The Moment.
Musically, ASIA was perfect, and how can they not be? All are amazing musicians who have built a solid legacy and for Palmer, Downes, Sherwood and Howe, it is nightly double duty. But, the big question for many fans, myself included, is how Thal would sound doing songs we can only hear John Wetton perform? Despite having a different style and delivery, Thal did a spectacular job and won the near sell-out crowd over very quickly. There are a few videos circulating that don't do Thal justice and how can they? You can't hear the love, scope and emotion of his voice condensed into an iPhone.
No one would be a tougher critic of the current ASIA line-up if they didn't measure up to expectations. I have spent an entire year writing a book about their rich and exciting history (that will be released very soon) and hearing Ron Thal deliver some of the most important music in my life makes me excited about the band's future.
For tour dates, click here.
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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.