STEVE AUGERI and ASIA Featuring John Payne – January 19, 2024 at Treasure Island Resort & Casino, Welch, MN
Review and photos by Jim Zons
Wow. Has it been over 20 years?? Yes it has. The year was 2002, and Journey was going to make an appearance at Rock Fest in Cadott, Wisconsin with their new lead singer, Steve Augeri, who was taking over lead vocals for legendary vocalist Steve Perry. How could this possibly be any good?? Well, I remember that evening that Journey with their new vocalist (conveniently named Steve) knocked it out of the park! I even got to hang out with the band after their show, so it was a pretty special night in July 2002. Since then, of course, Steve Augeri left Journey, and has been touring on his own. When I saw that he was making an appearance at Treasure Island Resort Casino, along with ASIA featuring bass player and lead vocalist John Payne, I knew I had to check it out!
First up was the band calling itself “ASIA featuring John Payne.” Some background: ASIA was a supergroup formed in 1981 by former members of King Crimson, Yes, and ELP. In 1991, original lead singer John Wetton departed, and English musician John Payne was asked to join the group as lead singer and bass player, a role he fulfilled from 1991 through 2006, as the band cycled through various musicians. In 2006, the original members of ASIA decided to regroup for a limited time, so Payne was out, despite having been featured on several ASIA recordings during the previous 15 years. In 2007, the original members of ASIA allowed Payne to tour as “ASIA featuring John Payne” from that moment forward (with some of them even joining him on stage and in the studio), and that’s who rolled into Treasure Island that Friday night! The set was about an hour long, and packed with pretty much every major and minor hit from ASIA, including “Only Time Will Tell,” “Sole Survivor” (personal favorite of mine) and their biggest chart topper, “Heat of the Moment.” Payne is a bass player, but a highlight of the set was when he brought out a guitar his dad had purchased for him in 1973, but he had sold in 1978 because, in his words, he had wanted to be David Gilmour. A few years ago, someone had contacted Payne to let him know that he had his guitar (it had a medallion with his name on it) and did he want to buy it? So at Treasure Island, it was the first time he had played that flying V guitar on stage since 1978 (song: “Don’t Call Me.” See pictures below).
Next up, Steve Augeri and what is essentially his Journey tribute band. In an interesting twist, the keyboard player and guitar player from ASIA featuring John Payne joined Steve Augeri’s band as key members (with the guitarist playing bass for Steve Augeri!) The next 90 minutes were a non-stop session of Journey’s greatest hits: “Separate Ways”, “Stone In Love”, “Wheel In The Sky”, “Faithfully”, “Don’t Stop Believin’” … you name it. Steve Augeri still has a great voice; I can see why Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon of Journey recruited him in the first place to replace Steve Perry back in 1998. The evening was marred by some strange sound issues: at one point, Steve Augeri’s mic stopped working and it took almost an entire song to replace it. During an extended version of “Lovin’, Touchin’, Squeezin’”, Steve strapped on a guitar, as did the keyboard player, with three guitars jamming with individual solos … except you couldn’t hear Steve’s guitar (although he obviously could). Odd. The encore was “Anyway You Want It” and the band took their final bows, and the house lights came up, as did some classic rock music. Steve Augeri kept working the crowd, saying, “one more? One more?” So they decided to perform one more song, but whoever was running sound didn’t drop the classic rock soundtrack until Steve started banging hard on the microphone. And then they launched into a perfect cover of … “Forever Young” by Rod Stewart! It was an odd ending to an otherwise very enjoyable evening of classic Journey and ASIA music. If this combination of bands makes another stop in the area, I will go see them again: they sounded great and it was an awesome show!