Asia – “Symfonia – Live in Bulgaria 2013” 2CD / DVD (Frontiers Music)
Originally recorded as a special show in 2013 that was aired on Bulgarian National TV during the Sounds of the Ages Festival, the 14 track “Symfonia – Live in Bulgaria 2013” is now presented in its entirety as both a witness to the show at a magnificent 2nd century Roman theater in Plovdiv, but also as a belated testimony to the effectiveness of the new line up featuring Sam Coulson on guitar following the retirement of founder guitarist Steve Howe. Backed by The Plovdiv Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Levon Manukian, who add plenty of atmosphere and occasionally bombast when required, “Symfonia…” features material spanning the band’s entire discography right from classics like ‘Heat Of The Moment’ to ‘Days Like These’ to the magnificent ‘The Face On The Bridge’. Still featuring original members John Wetton, Carl Palmer and Geoff Downes, this is still very much Asia’s famed prog based AOR and thankfully not some symphonic amalgamation as attempted by other bands. Manukian’s orchestrations are subtle in making the sound wider and adding natural substance where additional keyboards or more power from the guitars might have cheapened the overall effect. “Symfonia..” is not just another must have live release, but might’ve heralded a new chapter in the band itself had it not been for this week’s sad news of John Wetton’s passing, as such it couldn’t have been a finer tribute to the renowned bassist / vocalist.