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Asia - 'Symfonia: Live In Bulgaria 2013' http://rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/fc/32/94/asia-symfonia-live-in-bulgaria-2013-90-1495996838.jpg Hot

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A fine epitaph to the wonderful musician John Kenneth Wetton.

Writing this review has been extremely difficult – I'd been listening to this release for a week or so only to hear of vocalist/bassist John Wetton's untimely death from cancer. Formerly a member of King Crimson and U.K., Wetton co-founded the "super-group" in 1981 and the following year they released their eponymous smash hit album.

'Symfonia: Live In Bulgaria' was recorded in September 2013 at a beautiful second century Roman theatre in Plovdiv and the show originally aired on Bulgarian National TV during the Sounds Of The Ages Festival. Wetton was joined by founder members Geoff Downes (keyboards) and legendary skins-man Carl Palmer. New kid on the block Sam Coulson had recently been recruited to replace Steve Howe, who had decided to focus on his work with Yes.

The show begins with a rousing version of 'Sole Survivor'; Wetton is in fine voice and does the studio version proud. Coulson adds some fine soloing and is not afraid to deviate from Howe's work and add a few flashy licks. Palmer doesn't hold back on pounding his drums either! 'Time Again' also has Coulson showing that he's not afraid to show the crowd what he is capable of, he's very adventurous with his soloing and doesn't just try to stick to the original solos. 'Face On The Bridge', the excellent first single from 2012's 'XXX', is up next and sounds great live. Downes adds fine harmonies and a nifty little solo to 'My Own Time'.

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'Days Like These' from the 'Now And Then' album is given a rare outing. Wetton sounds full of vitality when belting out this little nugget and Coulson nails the solo, and for someone so young, he displays no nerves. 'Open Your Eyes' closes the first half of the show and it's literally a showstopper! Once again Coulson displays his prowess on the lead guitar, Downes fills the track out with majestic keyboards and Palmer again shows us why he's held in such high regard.

For the second half of the show the band are joined by the The Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Levon Manukian, 'Only Time Will Tell' opens proceedings and the orchestra embellish the overall sound. Coulson gives 'Don't Cry' a harder edge and has really helped to give the band a new lease of life! Wetton continues to impress and we mustn't forget what a fabulous bass player he is. 'Heroine' from the 'Phoenix' album has Coulson on acoustic guitar with Wetton sounding sublime. The orchestra also show their worth during the tune. Downes tickles the ivories during 'The Smile Has Left Your Eyes' and shows how underrated he is while 'Wildest Dreams', as always, sounds awesome and Palmer and Coulson shine – what a tune! 'Heat Of The Moment' ends the rather short show (seventy-six minutes) in a majestic fashion and includes the obligatory sing-along with the crowd.

Visually, there is nothing spectacular included. The stage is sparse until the orchestra appear and the lighting could have been more vivid whilst the camera work and editing is competent. Cynics would argue, do we need another Asia live release? I may have agreed; however, 'Symfonia: Live In Bulgaria' now serves as a fine epitaph to the wonderful musician John Kenneth Wetton. R.I.P.

Az Chaudhry

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