Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes and vocalist/bass guitarist/guitarist John Payne made a stop on their Borders Book Store tour in Poughkeepsie/Wappingers Falls, located in the beautiful Hudson Valley of New York. Sea of Tranquility's Pete Pardo and Grant Kikkert were on hand to experience a short set from the duo that included a few classic songs as well as numbers from their new CD on InsideOut, Silent Nation.
One would think that a concert in a book store would be a strange idea, especially for a band with such a history as Asia. However, the band arrived in the Poughkeepsie Borders bookstore this week for what turned out to be a very intimate and special setting, playing a short eight song set for roughly 60 fans. While the size of the store did not permit a stage, Downes set up his Korg Triton keyboard on the left, and Payne plugged his acoustic guitar into a small amp on the right, and the scene was set for a stripped down version, almost "unplugged" if you will, night of Asia music.
Things kicked off with "Wildest Dreams" off the very first Asia album, which debuted back in 1982. Downes, who has always been great at laying down majestic, symphonic synth tones, was in fine form here, as was Payne, who perfectly sang this song with as much fire and vigor as original Asia vocalist John Wetton, and even added in some nifty acoustic guitar work. Payne then signaled the next tune, the album opener on Silent Nation called "What About Love", a catchy song that has a great chorus, propelled by loads of awesome Hammond tones from Downes, as well as Payne's powerful vocals. The singer even added a neat acoustic guitar solo played through a wah-wah pedal, showing that he has some serious skills besides being a singer and bass player. It's always a good sign when the crowd is singing along to one of your new songs, and there were a few in the audience who were doing so during this song, and the applause at the end seemed to give it a thumbs up.
Alpha's "The Heat Goes On" was a real highlight, and considering that this stripped down version was missing the layers of backing vocals and jagged guitar work of original Asia guitarist Steve Howe, the duo really made it work well. "Long Way From Home", a melodic and memorable ballad from Silent Nation, was given royal treatment in this mostly acoustic-natured setting, once again allowing Payne to demonstrate what a great singer he is. This tune has somewhat of a Toto-ish feel to it, and had the crowd tapping their feet and moving their heads to the groove. Another classic from the first album, "Only Time Will Tell", had the crowd roaring with approval, and featured some great symphonic keyboard textures from Downes. The U2 flavored title track from the new album perhaps missed the hard-hitting element that makes it work so well on the album, but still allowed Payne to shine on the guitar as well as vocally. That being said, "Ghost in the Mirror" really worked well in this setting, with Payne's acoustic guitar chords and Downes' Hammond tones driving home the poignant lyrics very well, giving the song a very moody feel, yet still catchy.
Of course, the band couldn't leave without playing "Heat of the Moment", the band's best known song, and they didn't disappoint. While you missed the chunky electric guitar and pounding bass & drums, the message was still clear, that this song is still a classic, even in this stripped down setting.
The signing begins!
Geoff Downes, Jennie Lynn D'Ambrese , and John Payne
After the set, the two musicians signed CD's, LP's, DVD's, and posters, to almost the entire crowd, many of whom brought their own Asian memorabilia with them. Borders had a large quantity of Silent Nation and the The Best of Asia DVD Collection on sale at the event, and many were purchasing copies and quickly jumping on line to get them signed.
Asia with SoT!
Grant Kikkert ,Geoff Downes, Pete Pardo, and John Payne
Both Geoff and John were very approachable and friendly, and seem to be enjoying this little trek across the US. They mentioned that they are working on setting up a full-blown band tour of the US sometime in 2005, and are looking forward to coming back with Chris Slade and Guthrie Govan in tow.
Grant Kikkert, Bob Snyder, and Pete Pardo
Of course, it wouldn't be an InsideOut event without our favorite "prog-roadie" Bob Snyder, who always loves to share fascinating stories about bands that are on their label, many of whom Bob gets to go out on the road with. If you ever happen to check out a band from the InsideOut stable, be on the lookout for Bob or any of the other folks from the label, as they are great folks to talk to and get to know, and they all really believe in the bands and the music.
Written by Pete Pardo