Anyway, it's clearly a big show for me and so I faced a dilemma. The only night the core band of six could get together was last night - same night as Asia in Portland at the Aladdin. I have had a ticket for ages and as long-time readers know, due to heart attacks, heart surgery and god knows what else, Asia has cancelled Portland shows the last couple of times out.
My rehearsal was to end at 9:30, with the Asia ticket saying an 8 p.m. showtime. If there was an opener, I wouldn't miss much. But nope, no opener. The ONE time a band plays and does not drag along an opener, it works majorly to my disadvantage. Oh well.
I just resigned myself to it, had a great rehearsal and trucked over to the Aladdin to catch the last 30 minutes. I walked in during the middle of End of the World, a pretty good new tune. Next up was Open Your Eyes from Alpha and a Carl Palmer drum solo.
Now I had seen Palmer with a three piece instrumental group in this very venue (which only seats about 650 by the way) a few years ago and he blew me away. He was excellent last night but his solo was a bit more showy than last time. More balancing sticks on cymbals, bouncing sticks off the floor tom and catching them, etc, than just kicking ass on the drums. But he was indeed good and the crowd went totally apeshit. Seemed to be mostly men in their 50s - guys who loved ELP, Yes and King Crimson and went to this show because Asia was the next best thing.
The show ended with Sole Survivor, which was great. For the encore, the new Days Like These, and Heat of the Moment, I got to the very front to watch Steve Howe (see photo), one of my guitar heroes. I have seen Howe a bunch of times and he's always very good. He seemed a little bored, going through the motions last night, but it was the second to last night of the tour so maybe he was homesick.
I had earplugs in so I could hear very well. The band was incredibly tight. Much tighter than I expected. They were really excellent as a mater of fact. But they were pretty boring. John Wetton doesn't move much, nor does Howe. Geoff Downes has so much keyboard work to do and his back is to the crowd most of the time due to the way he's always set up his stuff. Palmer was the one mostly making loads of eye contact and mugging a bit.
When I was in front of Howe, a speaker was pointed right at my head out of which came Howe's guitar, some vocals and some 'backing vocals.' There has been discussion on the Web around is the band was using vocal augmentation. Here is what I heard: Wetton's voice was clear and live. They put a delay on his voice once in a while to allow held notes to layer and sound big but everyone does that. His voice sounded shockingly awesome. He hit the high notes in Sole Survivor with no effort.
Geoff Downes is doing backups, and they are also legit. But someone is triggering backup vocals a la Rush but not nearly as accurately. In Days Like These, I heard very very clearly the pre-recorded backing vocals, because they were out of sync with the band. Like someone triggered them a hair early or late and it was very obvious. I even saw Wetton roll his eyes a bit playfully, like, oh crap. So that mystery is solved but who cares? Lots of bands do it - Rush does it with vocals, keyboards, guitar parts and god knows what else, so in my book Asia can do it too. They just need to get better at it.
It was pretty incredible to see a band of this caliber in a VERY intimate theater. The audience was really into it at the end. Afterwards, I asked the guitar tech for the set list at Howe's feet. He said he couldn't give it to me because it had notes on it, which it did (I could see it). I said, OK no sweat - can you give this to Steve? And handed him one of my new CDs. Who knows if it went into the trash but MAYBE just maybe Steve Howe heard about a minute of my CD, or at least looked at the cover.
Hey a guy can dream, right?