Reunited Asia still burns with desire for creativity
By Kellie B. Gormly
Published: Wednesday, Oct. 24, 2012, 8:56 p.m.
Three decades after bursting on to the rock charts with the band's inaugural, self-titled album — and after many member changes during those 30 years — Asia is back to touring and recording new music with the four original band members.
Fans who attend concerts on Asia's 30th Anniversary Tour, coming to the Carnegie Library Music Hall in Munhall on Wednesday, will see the four British men who started the group in the early '80s: lead singer John Wetton, drummer Carl Palmer, guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Geoff Downes. And, since they first got back together in 2006 for the 25th anniversary and did a world tour, the reunited band has put out three albums that have done well: “Phoenix” in 2008, “Omega” in 2010, and “XXX” this year.
Downes says that Asia members are thrilled with the results after a wait-and-see approach.
“I don't think anybody had expected that,” Downes says of the post-reunion success. “We had a passion for it. I think the old spirit was back in many ways. It led us to do another album.
“As time went by, it became apparent that it was something we'd all like to continue with and keep up,” Downes says.
One of Asia's hallmarks is the band's “all-star” nature. Each member came from other established bands before Asia formed and released its first album in 1982.
Downes and Howe played for the band Yes — and still do, coordinating each group's schedules so they don't conflict. Downes also played with The Buggles, known for the song “Video Killed the Radio Star” that became an MTV hit. Palmer performed in bands including Emerson, Lake & Palmer, and Wetton sang in several bands, namely King Crimson.
“It's not just about Asia,” Downes says. “It's also ... about the four members.”
Band members didn't intend to form an all-star group, necessarily, he says. It just happened that way.
“We are people that had a really like-minded goal,” he says. “I think that's really the essence of what Asia was about, was the desire to create something. We'd all come from slightly different backgrounds. ... That's what makes (Asia) a very powerful entity.”
Yet, the band members' previous experience didn't guarantee success with Asia, he says. Ultimately, it's about the quality of the band's music, regardless of its members' backgrounds. The success of breakout singles “Heat of the Moment” and “Only Time Will Tell” cemented Asia's fame.
“The fact that it boils down to the strength of the materials and the strength of the first album,” Downes says.
Asia's anthems — including the Top 10 hit “Don't Cry” from the sophomore album, “Alpha, which was critically panned but still made platinum status — bring 30- and 40-something Generation Xers back to their childhood and teen years in the '80s, Downes says.
“I think that for a lot of people, we touch a nerve,” he says. “I think that ... cements our name in ... musical history.”
The latest album “XXX,” released in July, has earned praise from fans and critics, who called the newer albums the best since Asia's early '80s work. Later this year, the band will release a box set based on Asia's first album.
“People appreciate the fact that we're capable of going out and creating new music and being able to perform it live,” Downes says.
Kellie B. Gormly is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at email@example.com or 412-320-7824.
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