Fantasia: Live In Tokyo

Asia


These days, band reunions come in all shapes, sizes, and configurations. The most coveted reunion of all, however, is when all the original members put aside any divisive issues and reconvene – be it for money, sentiment, closure or just plain boredom. Recent reunions of the Police and Genesis had been in the cards for months, if not years, whereas reuniting the original members of Van Halen or Guns N' Roses wavers somewhere between inevitability and highly unlikely. When the original players of Asia came together in 2006, it was strictly a matter of timing. Coinciding with the 25th anniversary of their debut album, it probably didn't take much prodding to reunite Steve Howe, John Wetton, Geoff Downes and Carl Palmer. For all the pomp and pretentiousness attached to their brand of progressive rock, these guys checked their egos at the door a long time ago. And so it follows that to properly celebrate the reunion, the requisite CD/DVD set is almost a given. Taking note, Asia has delivered with Fantasia: Live In Tokyo.

Granted, the Asia reunion hasn't generated the frenzy surrounding the Police or Genesis, but Howe, Wetton, Downes and Palmer can still play circles around most of the competition. What makes their reunion (and the new CD and DVD) much more special is their open and honest acknowledgement of life before Asia. So while the group abounds in hits like "Only Time Will Tell," "Heat Of The Moment" and "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes," the real meat of the Asia shows is in the Yes, King Crimson, ELP and The Buggles songs added to the program. Wetton, in particularly, rises to the occasion with electrifying vocals on "Roundabout," "Video Killed The Radio Star" and "In The Court Of The Crimson King," which he didn't originally sing as a member of King Crimson.

Another small, yet significant matter that makes this particular performance in Tokyo unique is the fact that the original lineup in its heyday never made it to the Far East. In 1983, just as they were preparing to play the overly hyped Asia In Asia concert in Japan, the first concert broadcast over satellite to MTV in the U.S., Wetton headed for the hills. Greg Lake, an interchangeable peer, stepped in at the last minute for a one-time performance. By the time Wetton returned to the fold, Howe had left and the original Asia was left for dead for the next 25 years. Obviously, for anyone who may have felt betrayed by the circumstances surrounding the 1983 Tokyo concert, this show at Shinjuku Koseinenkin Hall must restore some fragrance of emancipation. But that's only if you really care about such things.

In addition to faithful renditions of every song from the self-titled debut, "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" and "Don't Cry," from the second album Alpha are presented as barebones acoustic numbers, adding yet another subtle dimension. For a group known for balancing the thin line between overt commercialism and progressive affectation, just about any unexpected turnabout earns a few brownie points. With the live CD and companion DVD in the can, fans can only hope the four will have the stamina to record a new album and reassert their primacy.

~ Shawn Perry

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