Asia Live in Las Vegas

Red Rock Resort and Casino
, NV

Words and Photo By Roy Rahl

Set List:
Sole Survivor | Wildest Dreams | Time Again | Valkyrie | Voice Of America |
The Smile Has Left Your Eyes | An Extraordinary Life | Days Like These | Geoff Downes Solo (Cutting it Fine) | Go | Don’t Cry | Carl Palmer Solo | Time Will Tell | Open Your Eyes | Heat Of The Moment 

The Red Rock Resort and Casino is located on the sleepy western outskirts of Las Vegas in the town of Summerlin. It is the flagship resort for the Station Casinos group that operates several properties throughout the Las Vegas valley. It’s several miles from the Strip and way off the beaten path for non-locals. Seeing Asia perform there was kind of nice for a local like me. It was like they came to play for us rather than playing to any interested tourist who happened to be in town that night. After seeing Asia perform to a packed house of extremely rabid fans it is obvious why this is becoming an increasingly desirable venue for bands who know what to do with an admiring crowd. It’s intimate, to be sure; and man, a good band can really connect with their fans there!

Asia proved this beyond all doubt. They thoroughly rocked the place while on tour promoting their new album, “Gravitas”. From beginning to end the band established an atmosphere of eighties rock n’ roll power. The long time members are still running at full force and the new young guitarist fits in like he’s always been there. The set list featured an impressive lineup of their major hits that the audience soaked up like a desert rainstorm. Just look at that setlist. It’s eighties heaven!

Lead singer and bassist John Wetton continues to impress me. The passage of time can be especially harsh on rock singers. Years of hitting high notes and belting out glass shattering screams can trash the vocal cords and force a veteran singer to make adjustments that can gut the feel of the song. Wetton’s voice seems to be immune to the ravages of time. On a night of wonderful surprises, Wetton’s voice was probably the best surprise of all. It has lost nothing. He still has that sultry, easy sounding style that is perfect for the genre. The power is still there when he needs it, and he can still work with the subtle inflections that make his voice unique. He is quite comfortable singing the songs. Sadly, that can’t be said for many longtime veteran rock n’ roll singers. His performance was inspiring.

Geoff Downes is an interesting individual. He never seems to want the spotlight but never shies away from it either. This is the second time I’ve seen him in two months. The other was with Yes last August. He is a busy man! Complete with his massive multi-keyboard setup reminiscent of the great prog era, he stands in keyboard heaven and humbly powers out hit tune after hit tune. He rounded out his evening with a wonderful solo performance, an extended version of the end section of Asia’s Cutting It Fine. An old softy musician like me still enjoys watching a keyboardist bouncing from keyboard to pedals to other keyboards and back again in perfect synchronization. Sure, there was perhaps a little MIDI and sequencing assistance going on, but it was still a very cool performance. 

There were other enjoyable elements to the concert. Fans of classic rock bands are becoming increasingly familiar with the “one of these band members is not like the others” syndrome. We see it when veteran bands need to replace longtime members and find younger talent to fill the void. For Asia it’s guitarist Sam Coulson. Wetton even joked on stage, asking the crowd “Who here remembers 1986?”, and then pointing out that in 1986 Coulson hadn’t even been born yet! Onstage the visual difference is quite obvious, but once the music starts the lines become pleasantly blurred. Coulson is a smokin’ guitarist and the lad knows his rock n’ roll! Fans can be highly critical when a new band member replaces an original founder. This is perhaps even more problematic for Coulson, who is replacing the likes of legendary guitarist Steve Howe. Coulson expertly pulls it off and has plenty leftover to put his own creative stamp on the music. The kid has amazing chops and still plays true enough to the music that the solos and overall guitar work are consistent with the original style. Rather than watch him and wonder if he will sound enough like Howe to make the song “right” I found myself thoroughly enjoying his own contributions and interpretations of the music. That is precisely what a new, younger member should bring to a long established iconic group.

And, of course, there is Carl Palmer. You know you are witnessing an incredible drummer perform when the drum solo comes along and people don’t leave their seats to get a drink or go to the bathroom. When Palmer started his solo the people got up alright, but they stayed right where they were and passionately applauded every nuanced rhythm the master performed. Palmer has always been quite the showman and still is to this day. His drum setup on this tour is nowhere near as vast as it has been in bygone years, but part of being a great drummer-percussionist is not needing every cymbal Paiste ever produced to make your point. The man had people mesmerized just playing the cymbal stand! Flash and pizzazz are important elements of a great performance, and Palmer has these in large measure. But if you don’t have the expertise to back it up it’s just a hollow production. It is quite evident that Palmer still loves to show off, but it’s even more obvious he still has the brilliant talent that justifies doing it. His performance the entire evening was captivating. His solo brought back past memories of many of his other impressive works.

While mainstream eighties rock is not my typical cup of tea, these guys delivered a really fun evening. I must say I thoroughly enjoyed myself at this concert; and I was not alone. By the end of the evening a seriously large number of the mostly older crowd had invaded the VIP sections and were dancing like it was 1984 all over again. It made me wonder if the resort had proper resuscitation gear close at hand! By the time Asia played their final number, Heat Of The Moment, the place was a giant dance party. I didn’t know whether to watch the band or stare at the impromptu dancers!

When a band can get people out of their seats and dancing in every available space they have done their job. On this night Asia did their job extremely well.