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tommyk

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Reply with quote  #1 
City of the White Rose, October 28
(spoiler of one track only)

I wanted to write this up as soon as I got home Sunday night, but then we did have a bit of a hurricane to wait out, and power did flicker a few times.  Never seen anything like this.  It made an abrupt, right-angled turn to the West exactly at our latitude.  It passed directly over our house and seemed to move just far enough past us to make sure it covered us.  (Okay, no delusions of grandeur here.)  And we fared quite well.  Not even any water in our basement (as opposed to last year at this time).  We’re fine, our five cats are fine, and our house rabbit is fine.  My heart goes out to those experiencing much worse.

York show and VIP event: Stellar!  Would love these blokes to keep touring so I could “live it all again!” 

A bit of background, as any review boils down to a fairly useless blathering exercise in asserting one’s opinion, especially without any reference to that person’s experiences.  This was my fifth Asia show.  They were my first rock concert ever - City Island, Harrisburg, PA on the Alpha tour, with Chris DeBurgh opening.  I saw them twice on the Phoenix tour - Penn’s Peak and Keswick, then with Yes at the Tower in Philly.
(horrible environs for a show at that time - deep summer, no air conditioning, one split-second green light to turn off the main drag and even get a chance to look for parking, beer constantly being hawked to all the geeky proggers, who would subsequently slosh it all over those they would climb over to get to their seats, and if one dared step outside for air [my wife was having a bit of a panic attack at that time], the Rent-a-Cop at the door would refuse to let ticket-holders back into the venue!  Tower Theater in Philly?  Never Again!)

I’ve seen countless rock shows since that first Asia show in, what ’83 or ’84?  Yes, ELP, EL, King Crimson, B.L.U.E., Moody Blues, UK and many others, most of them not Prog shows.

Until this Sunday night, the “UK” show I saw (John, Eddie, and Terry) in Wilmington, DE this past Summer was definitely my favorite show ever.  Great music of course, but also because I’d thought that would be a re-grouping I’d just never see in my lifetime.

Sunday’s Asia show bested that UK performance for position as my favorite rock show ever, even had we not participated in the VIP portion.  It was my wife’s favorite rock show of all the shows I’ve dragged her to over the years (and, hey, she’s dragged me to a goodly number as well!).

The show was absolutely stellar.  There were a few technical glitches, mostly in the beginning, but having been a musician and understanding all of the “sensitive dependence upon initial conditions” that goes on with equipment, from cables to strings, that didn’t bother me at all.  SH, though appearing to me to really not be “present” most of the evening (hey, a hurricane was on its way), still played like a pro - sounding excellent as always.  CP beat those skins and metals like a wildman - he had some seriously fast sustained playing to do throughout the evening and did not disappoint; his solo was of highest quality and liberally laced with comedy.  GD’s playing was dead-on.  My wife (a keyboard player) said she wished GD would have done a full-on solo during the show.  And, our favorite, JW was simply amazing.  My wife was equally blown-away. 
John, your voice sounds better than ever - no exaggeration; your bass playing - wow - carpal tunnel?  Could have fooled us!  Nothing lacking in the low end at all. 
All I could do was watch and sit there all evening with what must have been a stupid grin on my face, well, and automatically mouth the words to the songs.  Couldn’t help it.  Not singing along - I wanted to hear the Master fully.
And I love it when John turns around to connect with CP or GD, then turns back to the audience with that shit-eatin’ grin of his!  You’d just LOVE to know what they shared!

The audience was fairly well-behaved.  EXCEPT, of course, when the lights dimmed, the volume dropped, and GD’s synth set the mood for John to sing IKHYF.  At THAT point, a gaggle of three women immediately to my left decided to have a cacklingly loud conversation about nothing currently going on.  Taking my wife’s cue, I flashed them a quick theater glance - one of those movie theater, “I can’t believe you’re actually going to sit there and talk at the top of your lungs at a time like this” looks.  Nothing.  So I turned again (THIS song?  During THIS song!  Philistines!), and, all convention to the four winds, stared in each one’s eyes until silence resulted.  Sure, I was the “gawd, did you SEE that guy look at us - what a creep” their entire ride home, I’m sure.  But it saved the performance for me and, hopefully, some of the good and attentive folk around us.

The VIP portion of the evening was my first VIP experience ever.  I’m a poor community college professor, so haven’t paid for those before.  Just had to, though, for my heroes.  The organization and handling of the event by Josh on site was smooth.  After lanyards and instructions, we were ushered to our chairs for sound-check - eight of us sitting in a row of chairs that had been placed in the aisle between the front and back sections of the first floor seating.  Being relatively poor and on a tight budget, what with a hurricane on the way, I couldn’t afford to buy any of the wonderful merch that night.  Don’t feel sorry for me - I dropped $300.00 at “UK” this year on UK and Wetton discs and shirts, and already have the ELP remasters and shirts.  And I certainly will pick up the     Asia boxed set and some clothing as soon as I’m able.

I loved the soundcheck.  I’ve been a semi-pro Celtic folk musician on many stages - PA, OH, CA, Germany, Norway, etc.   Seeing a pro band, “my” band, have at - a wonderful experience.  They overlapped a bit, but it was SH out first, then CP (who also regaled us with a spoken rendition of “When I’m Cleaning Windows” for his vocal mic check), and GD.  JW stepped upon his Moog Taurus and opened up to sing an “AH” then exclaimed that his soundcheck was done.  Funny guy.  Steve had remarked first that the venue (The Strand theater in York) had very good acoustics - without too much treble.  They all seemed to like the venue’s sound.  Steve had a bit of trouble getting the sound right.  Two of Carl’s toms were standing out too much in the mix, giving him some trouble.  That became straightened out, then CP was in front of us in our seats!  We all stood up, cameras ready and ready for him to sign whatever we’d brought.  I handed him my copy of XXX booklet open to the page with his photo and a silver Sharpie I’d brought with me (having tested it first at home).  It failed to work in his hand.  The folks also in the Meet N Greet I’d exchanged camera responsibilities with offered me their pen.  That worked.  I was, for all my own performing and teaching experience, apparently dumb-struck, without Question One in my head.  As he passed on to the last person in line, Carl engaged with that person in an explanation of his new Stainless Steel kit, as well as only 25% of his signature drum sticks passing his tests for a good stick.  Having drummed, I listened in rapt attention.  Got our photos with Carl, then he was off.  VERY nice of him - caring - after the two photos, without having seen any flash, he told us to double-check the photos in case we’d like more.

All of a sudden, GD was in my face!  Well, perhaps two feet from it.  Now, I was truly star-struck.  All my thoughts of what to say out the windows.  I mustered a quick, “you were my first rock concert ever!”  He asked when and we exchanged briefly.  I was also able to point out my Omega sweatshirt and that my wife had embroidered the tiger’s eyes two-tone blue for me.  He signed for us and posed for a great photo, then was down the line.  As he was walking out, I pointed out his dragon- or phoenix-embroidered jeans to my wife (a huge fan of Jimmy Page!).  She only noticed as GD was almost gone, but, for reference, GD, my wife would like a closer look at your pants . . .

While still on stage, about to come down to us, I heard SH say to JW in the mic that he really wasn’t looking forward to the photos and signing.  I don’t blame him.  He’s human, too!  Who knows what else may have been going on with him (as mentioned, he appeared to be somewhat lost in thought all night - even while nailing solos).  But, the professional that he is, he did come down and sign with John.  John had sympathized with SH on stage, but John was clearly very happy to meet with us.  SH was direct about wanting to get the signing and photos underway, so I thrust my booklet and pen into his hands and thanked him.  He moved on.  I had wanted to ask SH about his macrobiotic diet and whether or not he could attribute his energy level to that way of eating (as my wife and I eat that way a lot of the time, too), but he seemed to be having a less than enjoyable time, so thought better of it. 

John was then there.  He was genuinely concerned for all of us regarding our level of hurricane preparedness.  Very sweet. 
This was it - my main dude.  My chance.  Out came the professor and I just began talking pretty matter-of-fact with him.  First, I complimented his voice from soundcheck - my wife joined in and gave her compliments.  All genuine (we’ve never heard you better, Johnny!).  He was very appreciative.  He gave us advice on how to keep the voice so strong - “No smoking, no drinking, no drugs, and no messing around!”
(Really, John, no “messing around”??  We think you meant no messing with the “no smoking/drinking/drugs” policy - after all, how could what I think of as “messing around” hurt the voice?)
I informed JW that I was the bloke what suggested “Asia XXX Bathrobes” and followed that up with a quick, “but I know we don’t always get what we want!”  He laughed and said that then they’d have to make two (men’s and women’s), implying the difficulty that would impose on them to cart them around and potentially be stuck with extras.  He said that is was a great idea and that he really liked that.  Then, my musical icon, gave me “the bump”!  Neat!
I shared the blue Tiger eyes with him, too, as well as showed him my SABB shirt underneath - that I was “Represen’in”!
Great photos with John (great smile) and he didn’t even mind signing over his own face in the booklet!
John conversed a bit with the VIPer next to us about the Cruise to the Edge - a week of being literally soaked in Prog.  Great for the fans, but the musicians might not want to talk Prog 24-7.  I suggest one room (a ballroom?) on the ship be declared a “prog free zone” with signage.  Hang out there and talk about real, normal topics, not “which cymbal did TB use on the fourth measure of . . .”  All I can picture is Bill Shatner’s “Star Trek Convention” appearance on Saturday Night Live.
(Hey, I am a progger at heart, but I know how annoying “we” can be.  Had my own annoying Progger experience a couple years ago:  I attended the Emerson Lake show at the Keswick.  I was Person #3 to ask a question.  I stood in my ‘73Emersonian fringed leather biker jacket and asked my question.  I began to sit, Greg began to answer, and a particularly oblivious Progger with an inordinate amount of saliva escaping from betwixt his lips proceeded (while GL was answering over the speaker system, mind you) to tell me how awesome my question was and even began to ask me which albums were my favorite before I was able to impress upon him my desire to actually hear the answer to the question I’d just asked.)
So, good luck with that, JW!

SH was walking back to the stage at that point, but I decided to do it.  I asked politely if he would mind returning for one more photo (hadn’t gotten one with him yet).  Again, quite the professional.  He agreed right away and came to stand between us and have two photos taken.  I told him I was happy I’d be right in front of him in the second row for the show.

It’s funny, the culture of the VIP experience.  I walked a line between getting the photo/signature/discussion I wanted, and stepping back to make sure the other VIPers had their chances, too.  A couple of people there had obviously done this before and felt old pro at it.  But most of us were a bit “deer in headlights” about the whole thing.  Funny, too; no one asked or told their names.  I suppose - what’s the point - these musicians meet so many people all the time and cannot be expected to keep names in their heads of people they spoke with for five minutes.  Completely understood. 
A very interesting side effect of having been a VIPer seems to be (confirmed independently by later comparing to my wife’s experience) that CP, GD, and JW (again SH seemed to be elsewhere) repeatedly seemed to be looking directly in our direction throughout the night - almost “checking in with” the super fans to gauge how they were doing.  Really cool.

A great experience and I’d do it again.  Here’s an idea for that “golden ticket” in the boxed set:  a chance to take a band member out to dinner!  (Nota bene:  discussion NOT to be centered around Prog Rock!)

Tommy Kochel
Professor, English as a Second Language

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tommyk
- "The odds are so good now, but the goods are all very odd."
pinkpanther

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Reply with quote  #2 
Well put Tommy!  Couldn't agree more!  I was the guy with the Zeppelin sweatshirt who asked Carl about his kit.  An amazing experience meeting your heroes- I was practically shaking with nerves before them came down, but I regroup quickly!

Great show, couldn't agree more with your comments!

Also, I was able to snag John's thumbpick from the stage at the end of the encores!
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freonwarrior

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Reply with quote  #3 
Wow Tommy, thanks for the write up, great read pal.
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tommyk

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Reply with quote  #4 
Yeah, great show, pinkpanther!
Nice catch, too - the thumb pick!
Now, I'll just send you my mailing address . . . (nudge, nudge)

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tommyk
- "The odds are so good now, but the goods are all very odd."
freonwarrior

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Reply with quote  #5 
I have the thumb pick from London a couple of years ago too.
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pinkpanther

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Reply with quote  #6 
Hey Tommy-
I caught the UK show in Baltimore.  After the encores, John had thrown his pick into the audience and there was quite a scramble for it.  This time it was just laying on the stage out of arm's reach.  It was between me and another guy- I threw my jacket on the stage and dragged it back.  Was hoping to score a pair of Carl's sticks after the show, but the road crew were not "accommodating".  Did get a pair of Terry Bozzio's sticks from his drum tech after the UK show - just had to ask!
tommyk

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Reply with quote  #7 
Hm, pink:
I still have my pair of CP sticks - not perfectly straight.  I see what he was talking about with the 25% only are good.

Want 'em?  I don't drum at the moment (well, nothing besides bodhran), but I do play bass . . .


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tommyk
- "The odds are so good now, but the goods are all very odd."
pinkpanther

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Reply with quote  #8 
Thanks, but I was looking for a pair that he used.  I don't know if you noticed, but I had a new pair of CP sticks with me which Carl was kind enough to sign both of.  I joked with him, and I swear this wasn't planned, that I could never get his sticks to work as well as he does!  I haven't played in years myself, but still love drums and drummers.
viddym

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Reply with quote  #9 
Nice review Tommy, although I thought you were a bit brief and to the point.
mags45

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Reply with quote  #10 
.... and kudos for your staring out the chatterboxes Tommy .... are you hireable for further gigs?
tommyk

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Reply with quote  #11 
For hire; sure.  Plane fare comped, meals provided (special dietary requirements fulfilled), overnight stays covered (as needed), free show tickets, and then, oh, $10.00 per day.  Hey, for the cause, wot wot!

Don't even understand it myself; slap a pair of biker boots on and - POW - people listen. 
Super confidence, I suppose, cuz it was dark and we were sitting - no way they could see those shinies!

Well, Sir John did forbid me from wearing ma' kilt, so I had to wear SOMEthing!

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tommyk
- "The odds are so good now, but the goods are all very odd."
Steele67

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Reply with quote  #12 
TommyK-wins this week's essay award!! Great read, now where's them pic's?
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tommyk

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Reply with quote  #13 
Yay!  A Major Award!!!  (Does it come in the shape of a leg . . . ?)

You're all Toooooooooooo much.

Yes, photos.  That's right.  My wife quite enjoyed Geoff's and John's arms round her waist!
 - help!!! how to?  JPG on desktop?  What size?

Cheers!

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tommyk
- "The odds are so good now, but the goods are all very odd."
freonwarrior

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Reply with quote  #14 
Tommy, put them into Photobucket and link from there.
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