Asia. The Sage , Gateshead, 28.10.2014

A small venue. Hall 2 at the Sage. Still, means you can get closer to the people on stage.

Lights go down, the ‘classical’ intro starts up, the men troop on stage to big applause, Mr Wetton picks up his bass and…nothing! No sound !  The moment is somewhat lost, but after a few minutes all is well and we are into ‘Sole Survivor’.  My favourite Asia song and I suspect I am not alone. Sadly, I am also not alone in having to say the sound was rubbish.  I could hear Carl Palmer’s snare more than anything else on stage!  Straight into ‘Wildest Dreams’, also from the first LP, before the relatively recent ‘Face on the Bridge’.  ‘Time again’ returned us to 1982, before a clutch of newer songs, ‘Valkyrie’, ‘Finger on the trigger’ and ‘I know how you feel’.  An acoustic ‘Voice of America’ from ‘Astra’ preceded Her Ladyship’s favourite ‘ Smile has left your eyes’ and it was half-time.  A very good first half , with the newer songs more than holding their own amongst the 80s classics.  John Wetton’s voice was in fine form, but, as I said earlier, the sound was very poor. Maybe it was better lower down but even Her Ladyship said that they sounded like they were playing in a biscuit tin.  A quick trip to remove some of the afternoon’s earlier refreshments, I overheard a couple of fans expressing similar sentiments re the sound (which at least reassured me it wasn’t just us)

Second half, and the excellent ‘An extraordinary life’ and ‘Gravitas’ maintain the sensible quota of newer numbers.  Geoff Downes has recently become a grandad and his solo spot reveals how criminally he is overlooked in his field. (I have to say though, Geoff,  the make-up could do with toning down!).  ‘Days like these’ from the half-hearted exploitation LP of yore was always a good song, as was Astra’s ‘Go’.  (Was it really written to order to mirror Van Halen’s ‘Jump’, as has been suggested?).  Alpha’s ‘Don’t cry’ morphed into a Carl Palmer drum solo, and being high up, it gave us the chance to see Mr P’s intricacies in full. Bloody good for an OAP!  ‘Only time will tell’ and ‘Open your eyes’ technically brought the main set to a close, but Mr W seemed to get his mates to go into ‘Heat of the moment’ without going into an encore break. Maybe the delay at the start affected the timings?

A very good performance from a very good group of musicians. Newcomer Sam Coulson is heavier than Steve Howe and in a similar way Pat Thrall made the overall sound heavier in 1990.  Mssrs Wetton, Downes and Palmer are all still giving plenty on stage and Asia’s recent studio outings have produced some creditable songs too.

Ticket prices much less than for a well-known Pink Floyd copy group! Don’t get me going , again!

Her Ladyship apologises for quality of the pictures, done on her phone. Unable to make out Geoff Downes in his drag queen get-up.

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