If Journey is coming apart at the seams, which recent social media postings particularly by guitarist Neal Schon would indicate, it didn’t appear to be the case to those around the group during its latest North American tour.
“It was not evident at all,” Carl Palmer of Asia, which opened for Journey throughout the spring and early summer, tells Billboard. “They were incredibly professional… probably the most professional band I’ve ever toured with, and their crew was just phenomenal. And the standard they produced each night really got me thinking that if we were to carry on with Asia, we have to step up and get to the standard they have.”
And, Palmer adds, there was no animosity visible among the Journey members even with heated tweets and Facebook postings swirling around about inner-band politics and, most recently, a White House visit with President Donald Trump by Jonathan Cain, Ross Valory and Arnel Pineda.
“They — by ‘they,’ I mean Jonathan Cain and Neal Schon — would pass each other in the corridor, and they would fist bump each other, so you couldn’t see any of that (animosity) at all,” Palmer says. “That was all going on in social media but it was not going on onstage and it was not going on in the corridors. I don’t think it’s ever a wise thing to wash your laundry in public, but that’s their prerogative. If that’s what they wish to do and what they think is right, then that’s up to them… All I can tell you is they were utmost in their professionalism every which way, and I was just absolutely knocked out.”
Palmer says the 40-plus dates with Journey “was phenomenal” for Asia, especially after the death of singer-bassist John Wetton on Jan. 31 at the age of 67. Billy Sherwood, who also replaced the late Chris Squire in Yes, filled in at Wetton’s own suggestion, allowing Asia to soldier on.
“We were very positive right up to the last three week sof John’s life; he really wanted to do the tour and thought he’d be able to,” Palmer recalls. “We explained to Journey that we couldn’t do this because John had died, and Journey’s management and agents came back and said, ‘No, we want you. Get it sorted out.’ So we used Billy — that was the one person John wanted us to use — and we had a phenomenal time. It was a great experience all around, and I’m pleased we did it. John would have loved to be on that tour, so I’m pleased we did it for him, anyway.”
Asia’s future, however, is on hold for the moment. “There’s nothing planned right now,” Palmer says. “I’m not saying it’s not going to happen. It’s a bit soon. There are no plans to carry on as we speak; That’s not to say it won’t happen, we just haven’t had time to talk about it and how we’ll do it.”
Palmer says it’s likely to be a topic of conversation during Yestival, which features his ELP Experience band, while Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes is part of Yes. Palmer is also planning to bring the ELP Experience back for a 17-date tour during the fall, and as the last surviving member of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, he’s also been supervising the re-release of the progressive rock trio’s catalog, including the upcoming Fanfare box set due out Sept. 29.
“The music has stood the test of time as far as back catalog sales — we’re probably one of the highest that you’ll talk to in the prog rock area,” Palmer says. “So I’m very happy with BMG [which is handling the reissues], and happy we can get this music out there again and make sure it lives on.”