Asia is celebrating its 30th anniversary -- but, as drummer Carl Palmer correctly points out -- not 30 years together.
The original lineup of the all-star group -- Palmer (Emerson, Lake & Palmer), guitarist Steve Howe (Yes), bassist John Wetton (King Crimson, Roxy Music and more) and keyboardist Geoff Downes (Yes, the Buggles) -- recorded two albums together in the early 80s, including its quadruple platinum 1982 debut, then regrouped in 2006. The quartet has released three albums since, including the new "XXX," and Palmer says the lineup stays together by deliberately not being the group members' only concern.
"We've all got different projects," Palmer, 62, explains. "We managed to fit Asia around what we like doing outside of the band and made it all work together. That combination seems to be healthy for all of us. Everybody can get what they want that way."
Despite the presence of "XXX" -- which Howe calls "very clear, very exciting, quite upbeat" -- this year is all about Asia celebrating that debut album, which yielded the hits "Heat of the Moment" and "Only Time Will Tell." The group has released a special commemorative box set and is playing about three-quarters of the album in concert, according to Palmer.
Its phenomenal success, he adds, also came as a surprise to the four musicians who prior to Asia had worked in progressive rock bands that did quite well but weren't designed for the mass commercial accessibility Asia achieved.
"It was the biggest surprise ever, absolutely," Palmer recalls. "I remember where I was to this day -- at the Crowne Plaza hotel in Rochester (N.Y.) -- when our manager walked in and said, 'Your (single is) No. 1 and you have the No. 1 album as well.'
"It was just one of those things. It was the right album, the right music, using the right media -- MTV, which was just starting at the time. The record company was behind it, so there you have it. It all moved very fast and it was quite a rocky road dealing with it, but it was very thrilling, too."
Asia performs at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 1, at the Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St. Tickets are $29.50. Call 248-399-2980 or visit www.royaloakmusictheatre.com.
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