Asia - Symfonia – Live In Bulgaria 2013 album review

Wetton and co’s recent live document gains poignancy.

Asia - Symfonia – Live In Bulgaria 2013 album artwork

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There is naturally more than a tinge of sadness surrounding this, given that it is being released shortly after the untimely demise of Asia bassist/vocalist John Wetton.

Song titles such as The Smile Has Left Your Eyes and Don’t Cry gain extra gravitas; indeed one cannot help but also think of Carl Palmer in the context of Sole Survivor, Asia’s drummer being the embodiment of such following the ELP-related deaths of Keith Emerson and Greg Lake. A bittersweet Symfonia, then, but a worthy addition to the Asia catalogue nevertheless. It was recorded (and filmed; a DVD is available too) on September 21, 2013 during the Sounds Of Ages festival at the magnificent second century Roman theatre in Plovdiv. On select songs Asia were joined by the Plovdiv Philharmonic, conducted by the flamboyant Levon Manukyan. Unlike many bands who’ve messed with the ‘classics’, Asia’s music is perfectly suited to this treatment; it’s like fitting a supercharger to the band’s trademark sentimental pomp rock. Asia mesh with the orchestral antics as if they’ve done it a thousand times before: Wetton’s relaxed vocal style never skips a beat amid the soaring symphonious strings. What more is there to say except: koszonom for the memories.

Geoff Barton

Geoff Barton is a British journalist who founded the heavy metal magazine Kerrang! and was an editor of Sounds music magazine. He specialised in covering rock music and helped popularise the new wave of British heavy metal (NWOBHM) after using the term for the first time (after editor Alan Lewis coined it) in the May 1979 issue of Sounds.