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Touring Asia: Longtime frontman John Payne brings own band version

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The Telegraph

ALTON — Asia featuring John Payne will bring its supergroup sound with vintage analog keyboards and guitars to Argosy Casino.

"You really need that to recreate the sound," said Payne, the frontman who replaced vocalist/bassist John Wetton in 1992 for Asia. "Technology has come a long way, but that synthesized sound can only be created with vintage equipment."

The original lineup of Asia, which formed in 1981, included former members of veteran progressive rock bands Yes, King Crimson, Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Uriah Heep, U.K., Roxy Music, Wishbone Ash and The Buggles.

Asia featuring Payne will play at 8 p.m. Friday and at 7 p.m. Saturday at Argosy’s Music Hall in Alton.

Since 2007, there have been two distinct groups using the Asia name: a reunion of the band’s original line-up performing as Asia, and Asia featuring John Payne as a continuation of the pre-2006 Asia line-up, initially featuring three of its members.

Payne joined in 1992 at the invitation of keyboardist Geoff Downes. Asia toured the world extensively for the next 14 years, performing new classics and old favorites, including ’80s hits "Heat of the Moment," "Only Time Will Tell" and "Sole Survivor," which Payne’s band will sing at Argosy, as well as Payne’s era of Asia’s music.

Asia once again is a cohesive, happy family, Payne described in a telephone interview with The Telegraph from Los Angeles.

"The original members were all in different bands and wanted to do an anniversary tour in the middle of me recording an album," he began. "It got a bit heated but eventually came to a settlement, so they could go out as the original members of Asia and I could go out as Asia featuring John Payne. All that’s under the bridge, and we signed a new deal with Sony and Favored Nations, Steve Vai’s label."

Now, Asia featuring John Payne is touring and covering the original band’s entire career. Payne is the only longtime member in the band coming to Argosy. Keyboardist Erik Norlander joined the Payne incarnation of the band in November 2007. Norlander’s synthesizer technique is reminiscent of the legendary Rick Wakeman, Keith Emerson and Jon Lord.

Drummer Jay Schellen joined the band in 2005, and guitarist Mitch Perry joined the band for the 2009 summer tour.

"I’m always the new boy, even though I’ve been in the band for 16 years," Payne said. "People can see we’re friends, not just up there because we’re being paid. That’s how it is today. We travel together, hang out together, have dinner together. It’s like one big family."

Band members will have a meet-and-greet after Argosy’s shows and are known to hang out at local establishments afterward, Payne noted.

Payne has recorded 14 albums with Asia and currently is working in studio for a 2010 album release.

Call Argosy at (800) 711-4263 between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. for tickets, or stop by Argosy Casino’s Guest Services. Visit for more information about Asia featuring John Payne.

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