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Asia celebrates 30 years with new tour, album

The music group Asiis Geoffrey Downes (from left) John WettCarl Palmer Steve Howe.

The music group Asia is Geoffrey Downes (from left), John Wetton, Carl Palmer and Steve Howe.

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♦ 8 p.m. Nov. 2

♦ Arcada Theatre,
105 E. Main St., St. Charles

♦ Tickets, $39-$125

♦ (630) 962-7000;

Back in 1982, Asia looked for all the world like a musical superpower. Hits like Heat of the Moment and Only Time Will Tell played constantly on rock radio and MTV, while the group’s self-titled album, with its instantly recognizable sea-dragon cover, was the year’s top seller.

Now, the group’s original four members — prog-rock veterans Geoff Downes, Steve Howe, Carl Palmer and John Wetton -- are on the road for a 30th anniversary tour of America.

“Asia only had that one really big album, but it seems to have stuck,” says Palmer, 62, the group’s drummer. The pull of that album — eventually certified four times platinum in theUnited States — not only kept fans returning to the group’s shows, it also drew the four musicians back together in 2006 in time for a 25th anniversary tour. They’ve performed regularly ever since.

“I think you would have found that any one of the four of us would not have wanted to reunite if we’d found the music tedious,” says vocalist/bassist Wetton, 63. “It’s not. It’s actually quite intricate. I still veer toward a memorable chorus, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Also, there’s a lot of camaraderie in the band. There’s love that wasn’t there in 1982.”

On past tours, the supergroup occasionally has included material from its members’ previous bands. “We did the ‘heritage’ tour, as we called it, where we did something from King Crimson, something from The Buggles, Yes and Emerson, Lake & Palmer,” Palmer says.

This tour’s set list, however, is more self-contained, with a heavy emphasis on that 1982 album and the new “XXX,” released in July.

Palmer’s favorite moment of the band’s first tour took place one morning in a hotel bar in Rochester, N.Y.

“We had just arrived and were having coffee or tea or whatever — I don’t think the bar was even open,” he says. “We were sitting there wondering how all this was going for us in the U.S., and our manager walked in and said, ‘Guys, you’re No. 1!’ That was a great moment, because we immediately got the bar open, and off we went.”

Wetton initially left the group in 1983, and a variety of musicians have toured under the Asia moniker with one or more original members over the years. In 1990, a Wetton-led version of the band played a show in Germany as the Berlin Wall was being dismantled.

“One afternoon, we drove into East Germany through Checkpoint Charlie — played the show and stayed the night,” he says. “When we drove back the next morning, Checkpoint Charlie had been airlifted out during the night. We were wandering over what, the previous day, had been the border. Nothing there, just an empty space. And you were free to walk across.”

Gannett News Service

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