Active again since 2006, The Original Asia of Geoff Downes, John Wetton, Steve Howe and Carl Palmer have been keeping as busy as possible for their fans by releasing both live and studio material along with full concert DVD's that pay proper attention to the tour they come from. I loved the bands eponymous debut album of Asia when it was released way back in the ancient times of 1982 and believe that I still have the LP version somewhere in a box over at my parents house. The bands reunion tour was celebrated on Fantasia and this release focused mostly on the debut. It was not long before the band delivered the commendable Phoenix as their first album together since 1983's Alpha. There were many that felt the album successfully captured some of the same magic that made the band so appealing back when the project was first introduced and I had to agree since I really enjoyed it myself.
Spirit Of The Night: The Phoenix Tour Live In Cambridge 2009 captures the band in concert supporting the Phoenix album along with the expected staples and a few additional surprises. The CD/DVD release being reviewed here offers the listener an almost track for track presentation with only two small changes from the audio version to the video. I really don't think anyone will mind at the end of the day. The show was recorded in what appears to be a very intimate setting at the Cambridge Rock Festival back in 2009. From beginning to end we find the band is in solid form from the moment that they hit the stage with the classic tune from their debut "Only Time Will Tell". They slam out "Time Again" which I always liked before delving into the newer stuff with "Extraordinary Life". This tune comes from "Phoenix" and is a wonderful song that advises us well on appreciating the very day around us. Its got a classic feel to it and succeeds without sounding dated. I might have written that down in the original album review but if I am remiss, then you have it out there now. I was happy to find some attention being paid to songs like "My Own Time" and "Never Again" from the bands second album Alpha because up until this time we were not finding the band giving them any focus. They seemed to be originally intent on refreshing our memory banks with the debut album in the years that preceded the release of Phoenix. Nice work chaps because these songs were also great ones and it reminds the fans that there was much more to the album outside of the "hit" single "Don't Cry".
As a concert video this one worked on a number of levels based on the overall sound and the great camera angles. The song selection appeared to be strong in my opinion and I didn't find myself skipping past any number to see "the established hits". Instead I watched from the start and enjoyed every time that singer John Wetton or drummer Carl Palmer spoke to us. Both Howe and Downes leave those duties up to the other two and instead deliver some top notch playing. Downes is amazing behind his multi-keyboard rig while Howe jumps about like a man possessed from time to time. It's great to see him being so lively and into it during the show as opposed to just standing there. The musician is in his sixties after all. Wetton's voice is still on the strong side which was nice to find being the case. He has such a specific register for these songs, so it would be painful to find this not being the case. Carl Palmer is of course Carl Palmer and one of the finest Progressive Rock drummers in the world. Yes he keeps it on the simple side with Asia material but there is such a fluidity to his playing that makes him a treat to watch. I defy you to not be playing air drums from time to time as this show plays out. I had to say that I was happy to find both the audio and visual editions being packaged together even though there is the minor difference between them. With the CD you get the additional track of "Fanfare For The Common Man" while this is not on the DVD film. With the video we get a bonus feature performance of "In The Court Of The Crimson King" that also features Ian McDonald on flute and backing vocals. I still wonder why they end up leaving things off of the DVD's since there is plenty of space on the medium to leave everything as is.
A full color booklet comes along with the release and offers up some liner notes about the show and track listings as well as a handful of photos. If you already love what Asia's reunion touring cycle has been offering up then there is no reason to bypass this album. It's a worthy purchase and should warm you up for their next studio album Omega. I hope to catch them in concert myself when they come around after watching this. I suggest that you do the same.
- Only Time Will Tell
- Time Again
- An Extraordinary Life
- My Own Time
- Open Your Eyes
- Fanfare For The Common Man (CD only)
- Here Comes The Feeling
- Never Again
- The Heat Goes On
- Sole Survivor
- Don't Cry
- Heat Of The Moment
- In The Court Of The Crimson King (DVD only bonus feature)