CD Reviews

Asia - 'High Voltage Live' Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     December 07, 2014    
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Asks you to remember what a cut above they were.

When I was a kid, a fantastically gifted player joined my beloved Liverpool FC for a then record transfer fee. Of course I was delighted; and you say he’s coming to a sports shop in Nottingham to sign photos? I waited for at least an hour, shuffling in line, to see the iconic sportsman. And as I looked down at him, beaming... he was picking his nose. I had been told that was rude. But he was doing it in public!

As you can see, it has stayed with me. This is why it’s dangerous to create idols. Now, I adored Asia’s first album, I still do, it’s a sublime slice of Melodic Hard Rock with some off kilter moments (mainly Carl Palmer’s eventful drumming) which elevates it to classic status. After fallings out and an extensive canon with John Payne in the driving seat, they came back together and started to make pretty good new music. No happy ever after of course, Steve Howe has now quit to concentrate on Yes and they have a hip new string-slinger on board, but this set, from 2010 at the High Voltage Festival, showcases the original line-up.

It should be a celebration... it’s almost a wake. This is mainly the well-known songs from that debut and while it can never live up to the pristine original, this is close to worrying. The sound is thin, levels jump hither and thither and the backing vocals are often out of tune; it’s understood that John Wetton will be flattening notes but he does hit some big ones even if he does cut them short; we must consider the ravages of time. But the songs here are workaday, no event, which they certainly should be.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Some songs like ‘Wildest Dreams’ and ‘Sole Survivor’ shine through, with Palmer’s drum solo on the former audacious as always, plus the newer songs like ‘An Extraordinary Life’ have a mid-pace sheen which suits their middle age meandering and the playing is delivered beautifully, as expected but always enjoyed. The crowd really like it and ‘Time Again’ and ‘Cutting It Fine’ almost have the swaggeringly grandiose groove of the debut; they unsurprisingly finish with ‘Heat Of The Moment’, for which the sound clears up and Howe’s angular solo is a real treat. Generally though, this is a poor reproduction; perhaps the DVD will be better...

And it is a joy. Clear, concise at an hour, no bells and whistles, but that blissful band, that wonderful group. Wetton looking unsure as he sings (your heart going to him), Palmer happy and bouncy, Downes magisterial behind banks of keys and Howe,  that crab like stance, peeling off extraordinary runs and challenging the audience, staring at them, bugging out his eyes and laughing happily.

We see Howe’s concern during the backing vocals of ‘One Step Closer’, we see Wetton’s love of Geoff Downes’ beautiful keyboard work, we see a band who can still do it, frailty clear but love blossoming from that. And what’s more, close ups; Palmer’s feet, Howes’s hands, moments not to be missed. The DVD may not answer all the questions that the CD asks, but it puts them in context and asks you to remember what a cut above they were.  

Steve Swift

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