Fireworks

Asia - 'Axis XXX: Live In San Francisco MMXII' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/4c/d9/6b/asia-axis-XXX-live-26-1441136898.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     September 01, 2015    
 
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They can, they do and they should be treasured for it.

It'll surely not surprise you that Mae West thought too much of a good thing could be wonderful and the great Freddie Mercury was of a similar opinion. There are also those who think that to base your economy on the "super rich one percent" is foolish; after all, when you've bought five cars, how many more do you need?

And the newly revitalised (although recently over-genteel on album) Asia are in danger of approaching Rush territory – this live album and DVD comes hard on the heels of a rather patchy offering from the High Voltage Festival (the CD sounded forced, insipid and wavered not a little yet the DVD filled in the blanks and was wonderful) and we've already had live offerings in 2011 and 2012 as well.

So, what will you get for your cold, hard cash this time? Something old – those brilliant songs... something new – a robust, winning performance. This is so much better than the HV audio; John Wetton's voice, such a thing of concern then, is strong here and his bashful banter is a winner too, whilst the band, occasionally missing a stride at HV, are at their imperious best. This is theirs to lose.

That they almost do is so like Asia and perhaps why we still love them so. Opening with the timeless, pumping 'Only Time Will Tell' and segueing into a big, brash 'Wildest Dreams' with Carl Palmer's drum solo almost tickling the original, the sound is direct and the crowd in a mood to sing along. Fairly newbie 'Face On A Bridge' has more balls and bite than the original and 'Time Again', sadly minus those gorgeous harmonies, is faithful with Palmer's drumming a pleasing feature.

Fireworks - The Ultimate Magazine For Melodic Rock Music

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Of course, Asia is a barrelful of virtuosos and Steve Howe is given 'Pyramidology' and 'The Golden Mean' to showcase his acoustic virtuosity; diverting but really only that. Then Geoff Downes and Wetton arrive and have their moment, in fact several moments, as they work through 'Don't Cry' (often done sans band these days) and half of 'The Smile Has Left Your Eyes' on their own, making the return of the band half way through the latter incredibly welcome. Palmer's solo isn't too involving either, fun though it is bound to be, but a triumphal 'Here Comes The Feeling', rising and falling just as on the debut, piques the interest again, a lacklustre 'Open Your Eyes' is thankfully cancelled out by the encore of 'Sole Survivor' and 'Heat Of The Moment' with obligatory sing-along.

The DVD is visually serviceable but the mix is a roaring tiger of sound. These gents don't move around much, they don't need to prove anything after all and they are seasoned; often standing in spotlights, just delivering the music and not really covering much space. The songs are great, the delivery is exemplary, they just don't really connect, although the crowd seemed to be enjoying it; shots are mid and long, but very few close ups of their work; although Palmer's cymbal prowess in his solo is as breathtaking as always. This is perfectly enjoyable and the band still provide; it's just this is not as endearing as the HV visual portion.

On disc they can sometimes seem to sound their age, a bit tentative and settled with the wine and port, wearing splendid waistcoats. The last release 'Gravitas', in spite of hot young guitarist Sam Coulson, had that feel, one of not enough excitement. Live though, they grow, trading on their elder statesman cachet of course, but undeniably showing that they can still do it. They can, they do and they should be treasured for it.

Steve Swift

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