Dragon Master (Virtuoso 107/108)
Orpheum Theater, Boston, MA – April 29th, 1982
Disc 1 (55:55): Time Again, One Step Closer, Without You, The Ancient, Clap, Midnight Sun, Only Time Will Tell, The Smile Has Left Your Eyes, Cutting It Fine, Wildest Dreams
Disc 2 (59:57): mc, Here Comes The Feeling (incl. drum solo), Sole Survivor, Heat Of The Moment. Bonus tracks, Stanley Theater, Pittsburgh, PA – April 25th, 1982: mc, Here Comes The Feeling (incl. drum solo), Sole Survivor, The Man With The Golden Arm, Heat Of The Moment
Asia started their US tour shortly after the release of their debut album with shows in upstate New York, Pennsylvania and New England. The Boston show was booked for the Orpheum Theater on April 29th, 1982. Dragon Master uses a very clear and enjoyable stereo audience tape of the entire show.
Virtuoso use the same tape that was previously booted on AlcheringA (Highland HL515/16) .
It starts off during the opening tape before the first song of the set “Time Again,” the song which opened each concert of the tour. They follow with the catchy “One Step Closer” and, as John Wetton calls it, the “ballad” from the LP “Without You.”
Steve Howe follows with his acoustic solo set. At this early point in the tour he opened with the finale to “The Ancient” from the Yes album Tales From Topographic Oceans. He would play the tune in at least three shows (up until the New York show on May 2nd at least) before dropping it and replacing it with “Mood For A Day.”
He continues with “Clap” played straight for one of the few times. He would later insert “Surface Tension” and “Ram” into his spot.
The new song “Midnight Sun” is followed by one of the most potent performances of “Only Time Will Tell.” The tape is very good at picking up the dynamics of the piece, featuring Carl Palmer’s devastating drums underneath the delicate synthesizers of Downes. It’s an extraordinary piece, showing the reasons why it was one of their early hits.
“Cutting It Fine” contains Downes’ keyboard solo. It hovers around a marital beat laid down by Palmer as Downes’ goes into his oriental and classical figures. The crescendo sounds quite a lot like the keyboard solo from the Yesssong “The Remembering” from Tales From Topographic Oceans. The transition back into “Wildest Dreams” is a bit clunky and unrehearsed.
Palmer’s drum solo is in the middle of “Here Comes The Feeling.” The show ends with “Heat Of The Moment,” weeks away from hitting number one on the charts. It’s already a fan favorite, judging by the audience reaction. Howe and Downes expand the song a bit by the end, but stumble a bit. Nothing serious, but it is notable. The expanded song would become much more smooth as the weeks move on.
Virtuoso include about a half hour from the April 25th Pittsburgh show as a bonus. It is a good but distant audience recording which was booted in full on The Man With The Golden Arm (Ayanami-051).
The recording is remarkable for the rare performance of a cover of Elmer Bernstein’s theme from the film The Man With The Golden Arm. Played before “Heat Of The Moment,” the instrumental is good for showcasing Wetton’s loud and melodic bass. This is one of only two known performances of the song (it appears also on the April 27th New Haven tape).
Dragon Master is packaged in a double slimline jewel case with effective use of the first Asia LP for the artwork and with several photographs from the tour. It is the first Asia title on the Virtuoso label and the first to come out in a very long time. The sound quality and the rarity of some of the performances make this worth having.
Having seen Asia on this tour, hearing this Boston recording brought back vivid memories of this excellent band in the early 1980’s. For me it was Carl Palmer that made this all so exciting, because the format differed in some dramatic ways from what he did with ELP. As correctly pointed out in this review, the recording quality’s great, and this is definitely a nice release that should be gotten by any fan of this band.