DVD & Blu-ray Reviews
Asia – Fantasia, Live in Tokyo 2007, Blu-ray (2009)
Published on March 16, 2009
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment EVBRD 33330-9
Video: 1.78:1 widescreen for 16:9 color, 1080p HD
Audio: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, English DD 5.1, PCM Stereo
Extras: Band interviews
Subtitles: Multiple options for interview content only
Feature Length: 155 minutes
When the group Asia first appeared in the early eighties, they were billed as a “prog-rock supergroup,” with guitarist Steve Howe and keyboardist Geoff Downes coming from Yes, bassist and vocalist John Wetton from King Crimson and UK and drummer Carl Palmer coming, of course, from Emerson, Lake and Palmer. Their self-titled first album was incredibly well received, and combined elements of the prog-rock backgrounds of all the members along with enough hook-laden pop melodies to satisfy just about everyone. In the early days of MTV, they were darlings of the new video age and generated quite a bit of buzz and airplay. That all came crashing down soon after the release of their second album, Alpha, which suffered from poor sales and bad press. Rolling Stone Magazine decried the album, stating that Steve Howe and Carl Palmer had been essentially reduced in their roles to session musicians. John Wetton abruptly quit the band on the eve of a much publicized MTV concert event, “Asia in Asia,” and that was it for the original band. He was replaced for the concert by Greg Lake (also of ELP), but he just wasn’t a good fit for the band and left shortly after the original concerts in Tokyo. Various incarnations of Asia have appeared since then, but this 2007 reunion concert in Tokyo marks the first time the four original members have appeared on stage together in 25 years. Perhaps this concert will serve as repayment to the Japanese (and worldwide) fans who were left in the lurch after that debacle 25 years ago. One thing is for certain, these dinosaur acts can definitely still play the music, and appear to have dispensed with a lot of the individual egos that probably contributed to their demise the first time around.
The set list here is pretty extravagant, with the majority of the songs coming from the incredibly good first album, along with a smattering of songs from Alpha. The remainder of the tracks are culled from the previous affiliations of the group members, with really good offerings of such classics as “Roundabout” (from Yes), “Fanfare For The Common Man” (from ELP), “In The Court of the Crimson King” (from King Crimson) and – most surprisingly – “Video Killed the Radio Star” (from Geoff Downes stay with the Buggles). I was pretty impressed with how these guys plowed through the songs with relative ease, even the tunes which I thought would be a real stretch for some of the group’s members. And in terms of the actual Asia material, many of the tunes were standouts, including “Time Again,” “Only Time Will Tell,” “Sole Survivor,” and “Heat Of The Moment.” Steve Howe offered a particularly entertaining guitar solo, “Intersection Blues,” and Carl Palmer gave an ELP throwback with an outstanding (and reasonably theatric) drum solo during “The Heat Goes On.” These guys can still play, there’s no doubt about that, and the Tokyo audience responded enthusiastically throughout.
In technical terms, the Blu-ray release from Eagle Rock is a complete success. The video quality is nothing short of superb for a concert event, with sharp, highly detailed images throughout. Contrast and colors are superbly presented. And the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack is also magnificent. If I had any quibble at all, it has nothing to do with the Blu-ray technically; it just seems to me that the recording team for whatever reason mixed Geoff Downes’ keyboards a little too prominently, and they sometimes dominate Steve Howe’s guitar solos. The original recordings were much more guitar-oriented in focus, and the mixing employed by the event staff seems to somewhat downplay Steve Howe’s contributions, which are significant throughout. I tried switching through all the available audio options, and the result was always the same, so I’m pretty certain the blame lies with the mixing of the original event. Overall, it’s a minor shortcoming, but Steve Howe fans (like me) will definitely take notice.
I found this disc to be a really quite enjoyable Blu-ray experience. There isn’t much in terms of extras, but most viewers will mainly be interested in the concert experience anyway. And the interview segments are interesting and enlightening. My complaints regarding the mixing are the only thing keeping it from four stars. Highly recommended.
TrackList: Time Again; Wildest Dreams; One Step Closer; Roundabout; Without You; Cutting It Fine; Intersection Blues; Fanfare For The Common Man; The Smile Has Left Your Eyes; Don’t Cry; In The Court of the Crimson King; Here Comes The Feeling; Video Killed The Radio Star; The Heat Goes On; Only Time Will Tell; Sole Survivor; Ride Easy; Heat Of The Moment.
– Tom Gibbs