One of my favorite all time closet bands (the kind of band you don't dare admit to liking past the age of forty due to the retaliation of mullet haircuts and parachute pants jokes) embarked on a two week tour of Border's Books and Music stores all across the US that was both initimate and unique. I was fortunate enough to catch a couple of the shows due to that they were within a reasonable travel distance from my place of residence. Earlier this year, Yes did a similiar type of a event at a Tower Records that was within a two block walking distance from my house, but there were some unforeseen circumstances that made that event a little bit too much of a media blitzkrieg with all the waiting on line to get a wristband, the mandatory cash or credit plunk down for a new CD and DVD, and wind up with nothing but perhaps a fifteen second chat with each member- but alas, with John Payne and Geoff Downes of Asia, you could have a sit down and chat about the weather, Quiznos oven baked sandwiches, or who they think is going to win the November US Presidental election until they got bored with you and sent you away.
The first show in Westwood or the West Los Angeles area which took place on a Friday night, was surprisingly sparsely attended by as few as twenty-five fans (but they had a nice little stage to perform on) with a few lookee-loos here and there peeking over the coffee bar to ascertain who was responsible for all the racket as opposed to the smaller and more crowded coffee bar area that followed on the next night in my hometown of Sherman Oaks, Ca ( approximately more than sixty heads were counted). If I owned some wheels, I would probably would have followed them up the coast to Santa Barbera for the next afternoon show.
From what Geoff Downes sermoned to the audience at some point during the performance, he stated that the purpose of this chummy little cozy get-together was not only to promote! or make aware of the newly released Silent Nation album (on that fabulous Insideout Music label), but to sort of demonstrate or ruminate to attendees of what goes into a songwriting process. If one can follow along with the bare bone essentials of how all the ingredients fall in place into what goes into a song, the better in the appreciation of listening to it- at least that's what I tried to rationalize from what Geoff was trying to say after they finished playing Wildest Dreams on nothing but a Korg Triton keyboard and a Spanish guitar before launching into the current single, What About Love off the new album.
John Payne revealed a few secrets of what inspired him to write the new material. The lyrics to the new single, Long Way From Home reflected on John's feelings on traveling abroad to record the new album from all the way from Wales to Burbank, California and the origin behind the title track from the new album dealt with a Howard Stern rant on the eroding of America's civil liberties by evidence of the FCC crackdown of radio shock jocks across the nation that John just happened to be tuned into whilst between tour stops during the last time they were toured America (Janet Jackson's much talked about wardrobe malfunction during last year's Super Bowl halftime didn't help matters either).
The little bits of monologue in between numbers wasn't all that adroitly somber. Both Downes and Payne had some lighthearted moments as if they were channeling the spirits of Peter Cook and Dudley Moore (or was it the Smother Brothers?), especially when it came to telling amusing jokes & stories about Steve Howe since John Payne was fortunate enough to tour with the guitar legend when he first joined the band for the Aqua album. I never did quite get the punchline to the 'how many Steve Howes does it take to screw in a guitar string? - are you sure you even want to be in the same room with them?' John P also pondered on whether John Wetton was actually thinking of Steve Howe when he wrote the line in Wildest Dreams, 'they recommended enthunasia for non-conformers everywhere.' And the mystery still remains unsolved to this very day- did the hair band, Europe actually swipe Geoff Downes' opening synth motif for Only Time Will Tell for their hit single, The Final Countdown? Even Jon Anderson wasn't immune from their schick- they made a playful jab on maestro Anderson's Alzheimer antics based on accounts heard from their collaborator, Billy Sherwood on a couple of tracks of the new album about how Jon would keep getting his name confused with Bobby Sherman - leading to the dedication to him in Ghost in the Mirror, one of my favorite tracks off the new album.
For those crowdpleaser seeking late seventies retribution got their wish when Geoff did took off on his little medley of Video Killed the Radio Star from which I understand that Geoff will be performing with his one time Buggles partner Trevor Horn for a benefit in his honor sometime in England next month. The new material was just as well received as the old stalwart hits judging from the audience reaction. Hearing the striped down versions of Wildest Dreams and The Heat Goes On had my mind floating in orbit back to those nostalgic times of innocence of rigorious pain-in-the-ass piano instructors or heated moments when I would hide with my Asia and Alpha sheet music in between recitals of Bach or Mozart or transcription assignments for Music Theory classes back in high school just for a little dose of sanity - so it was fun to hear these 'low carb' versions over the coarse of the two nights and from what I could see from over Geoff's shoulder, the visualization of seeing him displaying his chops up close and personal- there is indeed a lot of augmentative thought that goes into the execution of these simple 'pop' songs.
I! t was a shame that drummer Chris Slade hasn't mastered the skill of figuring out a map of the Los Angeles area yet- otherwise, I would've gotten three autographs on the new album for the price of two. I'll be anxious for Geoff and John to be bringing the full band back for a 'real' album tour sometime in April of next year.