ASIA - Then & Now and in the Future:
Super Group Gets Serious with
Gravitas in Morristown

A Feature Article by Rich and Laura Lynch

The original ASIA formed in 1981. They were heralded as a "super group" as each of the four members of ASIA had come from successful bands from the prog-rock realm. ASIA's self-titled debut album released in 1982 was a huge hit. It spent 9 weeks at number one on the Billboard charts. Singles from the record also did well in the new age of MTV.

ASIA: Then & Now and in the Future -- Super Group Gets Serious with Gravitas in Morristown
ASIA on stage at the MPAC in Morristown, New Jersey.

ASIA has had numerous line-up changes during its thirty plus year history with over a dozen albums coming from the various configurations of the group. However, the combination of Downes, Howe, Palmer & Wetton has generally been the most well-liked version. From 2006 through 2013 the core four have recorded and toured as the original ASIA. In 2013, Steve Howe retired leaving a large gap to fill. Enter Sam Coulson an up-and-coming guitarist. Sam first appeared on YouTube in 2007 and got noticed by Paul Gilbert, Walter Trout and then ASIA. Sam played on ASIA's current CD Gravitas (2014) and is now on tour with the band. caught up with ASIA at the recently renovated Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC) in Morristown, New Jersey on September 25, 2014. The banner above the MPAC stage was a winged pyramid with the group's name and the word Gravitas. This reminded the audience that ASIA was supporting their new record in the context of a career spanning set.

ASIA received a welcoming round of applause as they came out. A robust rhythm echoed through the venue as it flowed into the familiar framework of "Soul Survivor". Fans were clapping and singing along as the single segued into an a-cappella part before circling back to the heavier patterns propelled by Palmer. Carl's drumming was so dynamic that it sounded like two rather than one player. Next, ASIA performed a winsome version of "Wildest Dream" which featured a fluid but quick guitar solo from Coulson.

"Good evening," greeted John. He introduced their newest member Sam along with a newer song "Face on the Bridge" from the XXX (2012) album. The track showcased a wide spectrum of keyboard sounds from Geoff who had racks of equipment all facing the crowd so that people could see him play. Wetton told us that they had a lot of music for us from different albums which lead into "Valkyrie" (Gravitas) a vivid tale that meandered through varied progressions.

ASIA: Then & Now and in the Future -- Super Group Gets Serious with Gravitas in Morristown
ASIA in action on the Gravitas tour.

Sam Coulson had the challenging job of filling the spot left by Steve who has a cult following. Sam was such a different personality/player. One could picture Coulson in a hard rock band. He hit the notes of the back catalogue as they need to be played but was also able to put his own signature on the guitar solos as well as the material from Gravitas.

Geoff and John performed an alternative take of "I Know How You Feel" (XXX). Now, it was a piano vocal blend - more atmospheric and emotional. "Voice of America" featured Sam and John on acoustic guitars with Carl adding delicate percussion to the mix. "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" was a pensive piano/vocal piece that grew more potent when the rest of the band moved into the heart of the song to finish the first set.

ASIA opened the second half with "An Extraordinary Life" a rich reminder both instrumentally and lyrically to enjoy life today. Wetton joked about the joys of divorce before going into "Gravitas". The new song had that classic ASIA meld of catchiness combined with complexity. Next, Downes dazzled the crowd with his pageantry of a piano solo.

The hopeful "Days Like These" was spirited as was "Go" (Astra). The highlight of "Don't Cry" was Palmer's solo. Fans were on their feet watching Carl's fast furious beats that at one point included a conversation of sorts between the cymbals and percussion instruments. More cool tricks were mixed in as people clapped to the innovative sounds Carl was crafting from his kit. Palmer's part of the show was one of the most popular segments of an evening that included quite a few standing ovations.

ASIA: Then & Now and in the Future -- Super Group Gets Serious with Gravitas in Morristown
Young gun Sam Coulson fits the bill as ASIA's new guitarist.

"Only Time Will Tell" is still a timeless classic. ASIA efficiently handled the encore by taking a bow then staying on the stage to ask if the crowd would like another song. "Heat of the Moment" their first hit single from the debut album had folks on their feet singing along to its memorable refrain.

In a recent interview with's Rockin' Rich Lynch Wetton was asked if going with a much younger player in Sam Coulson might have secured more longevity for the band and brand.

"I think at some stage you will see bands being completely taken over by younger guys one by one until there's nobody from the original band there. But, there is the original concept," John responded. "I think that's the natural way for it to go. You don't lose the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra because one of the first violins dies."

ASIA presented a strong career spanning set that represented the band then & now at the MPAC. The theater continues to host an eclectic range of shows such as ASIA. Up-coming events at the MPAC include Peter Gros, David Sedaris, Dick Fox's The Golden Boys, Carmina Burana, Chazz Palminteri, The Midtown Men, Bill Cosby, Preservation Hall Jazz Band with Allen Toussaint, The Beach Boys and Smokey Robinson.

2014 ASIA is: Sam Coulson - guitars; Geoff Downes - keyboards; Carl Palmer - drums; John Wetton - bass

ASIA: Then & Now and in the Future -- Super Group Gets Serious with Gravitas in Morristown
ASIA pleased its fans with favorites and newer songs during a career spanning show in Morrstown.

Related Links: For more information on ASIA and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links -- Original Asia | | Asia Concert Review - 2009 | Asia Concert Review - 2008 | Asia Concert Review - 2006 | Asia Gravitas Review | Asia XXX Review

(Originally Published on September 27, 2014)




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