Wednesday, October 18, 2017
GIK Acoustics - Europe
GIK Acoustics - Europe
The Moshville Times

Review: ASIA – Axis XXX Live in San Francisco MMXII

DavidIn general, I do not like talking about musical genres but there is a phrase that has to be used when talking about ASIA and that phrase is: Prog Supergroup. The original lineup was Steve Howe (guitar) and Geoff Downes (keyboards) from Yes; Carl Palmer (drums) from ELP; and John Wetton (bass and vocals) from King Crimson. As progy groups go, it doesn’t get much more supery! Having said that, ASIA have always been more mainstream, more radio friendly, than you might expect from alumni of  Yes, ELP and  King Crimson and a single from their debut album, “Heat Of the Moment” did extraordinarily well in the States (although it did not manage break the top 40 here in the UK).

AXIS XXX LiveA very successful debut album was followed by a less successful second album and then the inevitable lineup changes. But the original lineup got back together in 2006 and stayed together long enough to make it to their 30th anniversary in 2012 when they released XXX. (See what they did there? Think Roman numerals.) A 30th anniversary tour followed and a concert in San Francisco which was recorded in December 2012. Which brings us to the subject of this review. (What do you mean, “At last!”?)

Axis XXX Live in San Francisco MMXII is a double CD and DVD boxed set that was released this month. Why it took two and a half years between recording and release, I do not know, but was it worth the wait? I’d say yes. This review will focus on the audio since I have only watched a couple of songs from the concert video but I think it is worth including a video here so you can get a flavour of what the DVD is like:

When I listen to the track featured above, I am hugely impressed but as a visual spectacle it is not the most exciting performance. John Wetton is a great bass player an a fine vocalist but he is not the most dynamic of frontmen. Geoff Downes has his keyboards arranged in a U-shape so that he often turns his back to the audience. Steve Howe is an astonishingly good guitarist but, in the clips I have seen, somewhat static. That leaves Carl Palmer, suffering the fate of all drummers, stuck behind a drum kit at the back of the stage. (Although it has to be said that Carl’s stainless steel drum kit is a stunning sight.) The video may not be particularly good but “Face On The Bridge” is a great track. As far as I am concerned therefore, the DVD is a nice bonus but the main interest is the audio on the double CD.

And there is a lot to interest on the CDs. Pretty much all of the big songs from their first two albums are here as well as a smattering from the reunion albums. Stand out tracks for me include the already featured “Face On The Bridge” as well as “Open Your Eyes” and “Only Time Will Tell”.

Each individual in the group is fiercely talented and everyone gets a chance to shine. A highlight for me is the classical style guitar solo spot from Steve Howe and there’s a good drum solo from Mr Palmer. (I do like a good drum solo!) I assume it is Carl talking to the audience at the end of the solo (part of the “Holy War” track – which is another great song) because he is clearly puffed out! Lots of crowd noise (which I like) and a bit of a audience banter (which I also like). It is a live recording so there is the occasional duff note and the timing wanders slightly once or twice but if you want perfection, buy a studio album.

Prog Supergroup? As mentioned already, the songs are perhaps a bit too mainstream to warrant the label “Prog” but, on the evidence of this live collection, I have no problem with the “super” bit!

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About The Author

David

David discovered rock music as a young, skinny, hairy teenager. He is still listening to it umpteen years later even though he is now old fat and baldy. The first album he bought was by The Wombles but try not to hold that against him.

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