The set picked from the cream of material recorded by Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Asia and John Wetton as a solo artist, as well as featuring two new (?) numbers and a cover of the Jimi Hendrix/Bob Dylan classic, All Along the Watchtower.
Despite a few first night nerves, a poor monitor mix from a local soundman and the odd musical fluff, the show went smoothly, leaving the audience happy in the knowledge that they had witnessed the birth of what could become another hit making band.
If you want to skip my scene-setting waffle and skip straight to the review, click here.
Thank John Shipman for changing his plans and offering to drive both of us rather than take the train on his own. We had a good chat about our respective websites on the 6 hour drive North, as well as the usual getting to know each other type conversation.
After a brief drop in to John's folks and brother (our bed for the night, we headed into the metropolis that is the Newcastle area. John had a pretty good idea of where the Dome was, though he'd never actually been there before. It's part of a leisure area known as Spanish City overlooking the sea. The one problem we had was that initially we thought it was South of the Tyne. Not so, unfortunately. Eventually we had to consult the map and weave our way North, under the Tyne. Finding the right area was not too difficult, but finding the venue was! We asked a couple of folk (who instead of walking right past you as they would in the South of England, they came up to us before we'd even finished opening the window - friendly folk indeed} who both said. "Keep going and you can't miss it". Well, guess what, we did! Asking a third person we were directed back the way we'd just come. As soon as we began driving again we both spotted the rather obvious domed building ahead! Ah well, here we were just an hour later than planned. This shouldn't have been a problem except for the fact that we were supposed to be manning the merchandise stall for John (and everybody else as it turned out). I, apologise to anyone who wanted merchandise early in the evening - entirely our fault I'm afraid. When we did get in everything was boxed and so we had to work out what we had to sell' get some price labels together and display the goods. As soon as people had seen T-shirts appear they began drifting over - before we were fully ready
Eventually we got the hang of the merchandising game and John managed to find time to take pictures of the punters for his John Young site. If you were one of those people look out for the pictures now. People who bought John's Life Underground CD that evening (and the following one at the Dome) has a limited edition cover - rushed through by John Shipman for the occasion. For other shows I recreated the sleeve in colour which is what was available at the remaining shows.
The good thing about the merchandise area at the Dome is that it was at the side of the hall, stage left, allowing us to watch the show and the merchandise at the same time. I should say that it allowed John to do that as he was nice enough to let me wander around the hall to get pictures from all angles to capture this premiere show as, fully as possible.
It was nice to meet so many friendly people at this show - especially as many of them had already purchased John's CD (though it did make our sales job harder) and were keen to find out when his next one would be available. Plenty of people wanted Wetton CD's - and many left disappointed as we only had a limited supply of titles (and only a couple of copies of most). For the rest of the tour John Wetton's merchandise was handled by Gary Carter and his girlfriend Louise bringing with them plentiful supplies of most titles, though by my next merchandising outing in Milton Keynes we were back to a similar situation but with more titles.
The band arrived on stage with little buildup, muttered a few words to check the microphones were turned on (not trusting the soundman ?), and waited for John Young to open this auspicious evening with a brief Fanfare which launched directly into the first of many early Asia tracks, Time Again. The hall is indeed indeed part of a dome - it raising out of the flat ceiling around the hall and elevating to the same height again. Unfortunately this affected the sound quality for band and audience alike - though those sitting at the tables in the central area, directly beneath the dome, seemed best positioned for the evenings entertainment. The sound was further hampered by the lack of soft, absorbing, material to prevent reverb. No, perhaps, the best venue for a concert. Qango didn't let this deter them of course, soldiering on with another Asia track, Sole Survivor. These two tracks ran directly into one another and showed the guitar talent of Dave Kilminster who raced straight into first gear almost as soon as the first verse of Time Again had finished. He made sure these tracks had a much more forceful guitar sound than the original LP versions.
"A couple of Asia tunes, now one you might know" announced John Wetton as John Young led us gently into Bitches Crystal, first of the Emerson, Lake and Palmer tunes, with a rolling, tinkling Barrelhouse type shakedown. The rest of the band soon join in and we're given the first ever public UK performance of this track. ELP had played it on their last couple of World Tours, though never played the UK.
Carl Palmer had been minding his own business up to this point - making sure he kept the beat together - but now he took the mike to introduce us to the next track, "a ballad, but first, Dave Kilminster" with Dave Kilminster's Guitar Solo. Dave began with a short introduction to Pictures at an Exhibition, before leading on through some lovely acoustic picking and finishing with some classical touches as John Wetton reappeared on stage, acoustic guitar in hand. An unplugged duet of The Smile Has Left Your Eyes followed, John's voice reaching all the right notes. During the initial two songs he'd shown his vocal power and now had the opportunity to prove how well he really can sing. Carl and John Young reappeared on stage as JW ran straight into the only true cover of the evening, All Along the Watch Tower. The track remained just two acoustic guitars and voice until roughly half way through when Carl began adding some delicate percussion. John Young joined in slightly later to add the only electronic part to the track, though his playing was largely inaudible in the mix. Making up for this John launched straight into the piano introduction to the only recognisable solo Wetton track of the evening, Battle Lines. The quiet introduction soon erupts into an emotional mid section with Carl adding basic percussion in the background. This emotional ballad raises and lowers both the tempo and volume a couple of times during it's course, and highlights the quality of John Wetton's writing ability. The song is the title track of John's last but one solo album and was also used to good effect in the 'Chasing the Deer' movie from a few years back.
"This is a new one and it's called Walking on Air". A moody bass and drum intro leads us into one hell of a good new track - powerful and moving. There is an initial long, slow build up to the first verse, the vocals telling of meeting a new love and the lifting of a heavy depression. It bears no relation to the Aled Jones track of a similar title, much darker and brooding - and a bit of an epic too. After the cheers for this soon-to-be classic John Wetton introduces the keyboard solo with "A warm welcome for Johnny Young here". Before beginning some keyboard runs John mentions that he "might need some audience participation here",
Ode to Joy (or Paddydog as it's now officially known in homage to John's recently departed faithful friend, Paddy) is John Young's opportunity to show us his mastery of the keys. The solo moves through sections from a solo you may already have heard on the Wetton CD ‘Live in Tokyo 1997’, some audience participation, a little keyboard thrashing work, before climaxing with Beethoven's Ode to Joy. After the crowd showed their appreciation of John's solos Carl commented, "Well done, so that's what you do on your nights off!"
Only Time Will Tell takes us back to Asia material, again from their debut album, and Carl makes the most of it with some big and busy drum sounds, Dave leading with some powerful guitar work. Towards the end the John's Wetton and Young and Dave Kilminster add some close harmony vocals to fill the sound out nicely. Carl then asks the audience if "they liked it", with, "Would you like another ELP tune?", reposting after the crowds cheer of acceptance with "We don't know any more". He lied of course and Mr. Young eased us into a Hoedown. Alternating lead guitar and keyboards make this a rather different version of an old favourite - though I felt that the lack of that dirty Hammond sound let the track down a touch.
John Young introduces the following
track as being "one you might know or one you might not". This is fitting
as he is the writer of the song, along with John Wetton, which harks
back to Asia's 1989 European tour. Most of the audience (I know I was)
were probably fooled into thinking that we were getting the title track
of John Wettons last solo album, 'Arkangel'
. Not so, as became obvious as the lyrics began. This was
Last One Home, a track to be found on John Young's solo CD, 'Life
Underground' on sale at the show.
As Carl Palmer began his drum solo the other musicians took to the cover of backstage to leave the man to show us his mastery of percussion. Starting on drums he moved swiftly to tambourine, cymbals and hi-hats, taking time to vary the tempo and volume of the workout. Large cheers erupted as he extracted himself from his top before pounding back into the drums with an amazing amount of skill and ferocity building to a crescendo before the other three returned for a brief reprise of Fanfare for the Common Man before departing the stage again.
After a few minutes rest (for
the band, the audience, of course were cheering and whistling for more
throughout) the guys returned for a spirited rendition of Heat of
the Moment, Once again Dave Kilminster took full advantage and gave
us an exceptional guitar solo before joining the end harmonies. A large
cheer went up as the guys took their bows and left the stage as Carl
thanked us "very much". Was that it? 85 minutes of enjoyment, Not if
the compere could help it. He prompted the ecstatic crowd to keep
chanting and eventually the lads returned with Don't Cry. It's
fitting, I guess, that this final track was their highest charting single
way back in late summer of 1983 - and a great way to finish a set too.
90 minutes of pure entertainment. If you missed it, make sure you buy the live CD when it arrives in the stores - you won't be disappointed.
or here for some higher quality ones on the official website
Dome Press Release Page I've quoted this item from the Dome page in case they remove it:
FROM JAPAN TO WHITLAY BAY
Tourists are travelling from as far away as Japan and Turkey to Whitley Bay and it's not the candy floss that's attracting them. They want to see two of the best musicians in the world. Carl Palmer has become famous throughout the planet as the drummer with Emerson Lake & Palmer (ELP), a band who have sold countless millions of albums. John Wetton was the bass player with the hugely successful cult band King Crimson and both men joined forces with YES guitarist Steve Howe to form another big selling band, ASIA in the eighties.
With ace guitarist Dave Kilminster and keyboard wizard Kieren Twist, the new outfit is called Qango which has been formed for four shows only in the UK with their only northern date at The Dome, Whitley Bay on Wednesday 2nd February. Such is the rarity of these musicians playing in the same band, fans are prepared to make the pilgrimage half way around the world to a seaside town in the Northeast.
Carl Palmer's fame was assured when ELP's "Fanfare For The Common Man" shot into the top ten in the summer of 1977 and remained in the charts for over three months. Palmer and Wetton were joined by YES guitarist Steve Howe to form Asia which also enjoyed chart success in the early eighties.
This special show at the Dome will feature the music of Asia with an unmistakable touch of ELP. It's not every day that the Japanese make a special round-the-world day trip to Whitley Bay, but we can report that general advance ticket sales are good and that fans are also coming from North Shields!
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