Asia played its first proper concert since 2019 on Wednesday evening (July 3) in Ridgefield, Connecticut. The performance launched the band's summer tour and unveiled a new lineup who quickly revealed they were well-equipped for the task.

The British group's eponymous 1982 debut, now over 40 years removed from its original release, figured heavily in the night's set list with seven of its nine tracks getting feature time. It's hardly surprising seeing as the album went to No. 1 on Billboard's album charts, driven by the success of three major singles. Songs like the now-signature "Heat of the Moment," plus "Only Time Will Tell" and "Sole Survivor" helped Asia sell more than four million copies.

But it caught the members themselves off guard at the time. "When we finished the album, none of us knew how successful it was going to be," co-founder and keyboardist Geoff Downes told UCR prior to the tour start. "We all felt we'd made a good album, but you never know until you start getting played on every single radio station in America. All of the sudden, the album is flying up the charts."

Who's In Asia Now?

The current lineup of Asia was born out of the Extraordinary Life Memorial Concert, a 2023 tribute to late frontman John Wetton, who died in 2017 after a cancer battle. Vocalist Harry Whitley had the difficult task of stepping into Wetton's position that day, something he handled admirably, according to Downes, who noted that "he really, really raised some eyebrows." Guitarist John Mitchell worked with both Wetton and Downes in Icon and the John Wetton Band. Drummer Virgil Donati, well-known in the progressive rock circles, also has ties to Wetton, having been part of a successful reunion for '70s prog rockers U.K. Original guitarist Steve Howe, still currently with Yes, has been out of the Asia mix since 2013, while drummer Carl Palmer was unavailable for the dates due to commitments with his Emerson, Lake and Palmer tribute.

While some fans pushed back regarding the legitimacy of the new lineup prior to the tour, Lisa Wetton, the singer's widow, quickly released a statement of support. "John himself would have endorsed this tour, because he wanted the music to live on."

READ MORE: John Wetton's Widow Responds to Fan Complaints Over Reformed Asia

How Asia Is Honoring John Wetton's Memory

As Downes relates, Whitley was the crucial missing piece. "The amazing thing was, when everyone started playing, it just sounded so alive. Harry is a dead ringer for John in many ways in terms of his vocal delivery and his general presentation," he explained.  He was a real find."

"It seemed like a very, very nice way of paying tribute to John as much as anything else. You know, the idea that we could put together this team of musicians that would really do justice to Asia’s music," he added. "John’s always in my mind. Obviously, I had a fantastic friendship and writing relationship with John. We broke down some walls with our writing. It was always a very inspirational day spent writing with John. I cherish those memories."

The Heat of the Moment trek continues on Saturday in Medford, Massachusetts.

Watch Asia Perform 'Heat of the Moment' in Ridgefield, Connecticut 

Asia, 7/3/2024 Ridgefield Playhouse, Ridgefield, Connecticut, Set List

1. "Wildest Dreams"
2. "Here Comes The Feeling"
3. "Don’t Cry"
4. "An Extraordinary Life"
5. "Voice Of America"
6. "Time Again"
7. "Cutting It Fine / Bolero"
8. "Video Killed The Radio Star"
9. "The Smile Has Left Your Eyes" (acoustic)
10. "Only Time Will Tell"
11. "Go"
12. "Sole Survivor"
13. "Heat of the Moment"

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Gallery Credit: Nick DeRiso

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