℗ 2000 Manticore Records CD 16752
This lone memento from the Qango project / super-group / reunion / whatever the hell it was is almost by definition a collectors-only item, regardless of how good (or poor) the performances on it might be. That’s because really only the serious fans and collectors who will appreciate what the record represents, or at least what it was supposed to have represented, which was a reunion of the original Asia lineup. That didn’t happen (see ‘Phoenix’ for that – eventually). But what ended up happening was some very lucky fans in Britain got to see John Wetton – clean, sober and in pretty darn good form with Carl Palmer and a couple of young bucks on guitar and keyboards who should probably consider themselves lucky. From what I’ve read Keith Emerson showed up as a guest star for at least one of those performances as well.
The tracks are a combination of Asia (mostly early) stuff, some ELP and a cover that was probably included because everyone in the group already knew it.
The performances here are all quite good, especially considering the lineup that finally managed to headline some shows was slow to evolve and I can’t imagine these guys had a whole lot of time to gel as a unit before putting themselves in front of the lights.
The Asia tracks were all no-brainers from the beginning of the band’s career: “Time Again”, “Sole Survivor” and “Heat of the Moment”. The ELP tracks were also pretty obvious choices, since like “All Along the Watchtower” the three ELP songs were already quite familiar to everyone in the group. Gratuitous solos are of course a very necessary part of a live concert, especially one where old geezers like these need time to go get oxygen once and a while, and all of the solos on this record were primo examples of top-notch musicianship, so nothing lost there.
The one surprise choice was “The Last One Home” from Wetton’s ‘Arkangel’ album, something that brought the otherwise lively tempo of the concert down, and one which I’m sure the other members had to take time to spin up on. I suspect this was a cathartic one for Wetton though, and possibly meant to be a spiritual/emotional connecting point with the crowd, sort of like David Crosby’s heartfelt rendition of “Wasted on the Way” with CSN back in the eighties. I will say that the Steve Vai clone Dave Kilminster managed to not only smoke his fret board on this one, he actually seemed to have injected a little human emotion in the process, something Vai has yet to do as far as I know. Definitely the highlight of the album, and I’m sure a very emotional point in the live shows as well.
This record would have carried more weight and been more important if the early plan to reunite all the original Asia members had played out back then. But the time was not right and this lineup managed to put on some decent shows. But the whole thing never lasted and I think everyone knew it wouldn’t. I should say this is for collectors only and therefore worthy of only two stars, but we all know Wetton and Palmer are better than that even on their worst night, and this was not their worst night. So a solid three stars and recommended if you can find it. — Clemof.