Review – Asia In Asia Live At The Budokan Arena, Tokyo, December 1983 – by John Wenlock-Smith

The history of Asia is an often complex, involved and even a troubled one as the back story to this latest instalment in the Asia canon testifies. This latest release in band’s history is the then ground breaking satellite broadcast, live from Tokyo’s legendary Budokan theatre on 9th December 1983. This was also the first live video broadcast by MTV, however there was a problem in that, weeks earlier, after lacklustre sales of their hastily recorded follow up album saw it peak at number 67 on the Billboard chart, as opposed to the colossal sales of the band’s debut ‘Asia’ (1982).

Not only had ‘Alpha’ failed to match their debut’s success, the band themselves were also unhappy with the album’s mix and also the haste in which they had been ushered back to the studio to record it. On top of all that Asia were struggling internally with tensions between members, namely John Wetton and, well, anyone really! The success of the debut had hit John hardest as he was unaccustomed to the level of celebrity success had bought, John was also drinking heavily and this was affecting his performances with the ‘Alpha’ tour being particularly affected. So much so that latter dates were pulled. All of these frustrations reached a head and the band’s Management and label demanded a change be made and so John was duly dismissed..

The difficulty was that Asia were scheduled to do the MTV gig but had no lead singer. Time to call in a favour…

Carl Palmer called his old colleague Greg Lake from his ELP days and asked him for his help, Greg consented but was unfamiliar with Asia’s music and had to rely on a teleprompter for the actual show. The band started rehearsals in London with a view to being competent enough for the show. In fact, they played a rehearsal show the evening before at the Budokan to evaluate everything out and to make sure it all worked. The gig went off well and was a success technically, the show was released on video and laser disc but was then largely forgotten and subsequently overtaken by other events in the Asia world. It is now forty years since that show and the film has been overhauled for a re-release. This set includes vinyl and CDs of the show and the rehearsal show and a Blu-Ray of the show and, also, a version of the original laser disc cut of the show.

The sound has been remixed and remastered for premium sound and there is new artwork for the set and lovely it is too. The draw here will be this much improved sound and, when coupled with the previously unreleased rehearsal disc, this should be a rather good selling point. In fact, the sound is exceptionally good and clear and you can hear the band really giving it some oomph! In addition, you can see this for yourself t in the accompanying Blu-Ray, where you can enjoy the energy of show and witness all the members of Asia really playing their hearts out, especially Geoff Downes impressive keyboard set up and his antics during the show.

Greg Lake proves to be an exceptionally good fill in for the departed John Wetton and his bass is muscular when needed. It’s good to see him this way as his Asia tenure was short lived, one that sadly failed to bear any additional fruit. There are no bonus features, as such, and a documentary detailed in the booklet does not appear to be there. Even so, this set has merit and it reintroduces a not insignificant global event that was unique and ground-breaking in many ways.

The band were on form, and it is good to have this record of this event in its remixed and remastered glory once again. The tracks are from the debut with a few select tracks from the ‘Astra’ album. With both Wetton and Lake no longer with us, this set gives opportunity to view that strange moment of musical history once more and I, for one, am extremely glad to be able to do so.

Released 10th June, 2022.

Pre-order here:

Asia – Live At The Budokan, Tokyo, 1983 [VINYL] (lnk.to)

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