Since I have been fortunate enough to have a regular contact with Renaissance singer Annie Haslam,
a well established painter nowadays living in the Philadelphia area,
I learned about the plans of Michael Dunford and her to do a series of nine concerts to celebrate 40 years of Renaissance.
All of the shows were in venues near the East Coast of the US and since I have never had the opportunity to see Renaissance live,
I decided to cross the Atlantic to catch this reformed band on one of their shows.
Because both Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford are in their sixties, I had the feeling this could well be my last opportunity.
I was granted a laminate through Annie Haslam and a photo pass via Renee Pfeffer, a very nice and helpful lady responsible for the promotional side of this tour.
The venue situated on the far (south)west side of New York in South Orange, was the decorum of the 8th concert.
I was bid a warm welcome by Annie herself and was cordially introduced to the members of the current line up: original member Michael Dunford (guitar, vocal),
Rave Tesar (whom we know from the Annie Haslam Band) on the keyboards and guest musicians Tom Brislin (some of us will remember him from the Yes-Symphonic tour) on the keyboards,
David J. Keyes on bass and vocals, formerly the bassplayer (for seventeen years!) with the late Willie de Ville and David Pagano on drums.
Immediately my eyes fell on the beautiful bass drum front as well as the pick guard from Keyes' bass guitar, both hand painted by Annie.
After the sound check and a meal in one of the restaurants in the surrounding area it was showtime.
The very nice and cozy theatre, seating approximately 450 people, was sold out and filled with connoisseurs when support act Jann Klose came on stage.
This young man, with whom Annie had been collaborating before, is living in New York for a number of years now and originates from Germany.
Jann proved to be a gifted singer/songwriter with a nice voice and some truly great songs.
Although I'm not a fan of acoustic music, it was easy to recognize this man's impressive talents and his latest album Reverie (with a full band) is definitely worth checking out.
After the break, the moment all of the audience had been waiting for: RENAISSANCE!
The atmosphere was superb from the moment Rave Tesar began to play the opening notes from Prologue.
Annie, still barefooted, had a minor role vocally but played some percussion and thus added to the beautiful music.
A selection of the best tunes followed, with very nice renditions of Carpet Of The Sun and Midas Man.
The classical intro of Running Hard was not played without some minor mishit but still the crowd went wild, hearing those wonderful melodies.
My admiration for John Tout grew even more, seeing Tesar and Brislin handling the keyboard-duties that Tout used to play for the largest part on his own,
although Brislin was adding effects and orchestrations at times as if there was a real orchestra playing with the band.
One of the most magical tracks for me on the album Turn Of The Cards is Black Flame.
The way the band performed this song brought tears to my eyes of pure joy and enchantment.
Being a fan of the Rickenbacker bass I could not help to have missed that particular sound although David Keyes did a great job.
Haslam and Dunford, in their sixties, obviously show the effects of aging but who could care less?
The music mattered much more and songs like Northern Lights, Things We Don't Understand and especially Mother Russia were performed as if it were the original band in their heydays!
Annie, although singing just occasionally live this last decade, was in truly great form and obviously age had little or no effect on her remarkable voice.
Just like in the old days she was standing or swaying gently, fully concentrated behind her microphone and most of the times just communicating with the audience between the songs.
The introductions were done by both the 'partners in crime', Michael Dunford and Annie Haslam.
The evening went by far too soon and even the impressive encore Ashes Are Burning with an astonishing vocal performance by Haslam did not seem to be enough...
the crowd surely would have loved to hear more!
How devoted some of fans are, was demonstrated after the concert, where many fans lined up patiently to catch a glimpse of the artists up close and get an autograph on some LP, poster or CD cover....
I was invited to be a witness to the very last show of this tour at the Taj Mahal Xanadu theater in Atlantic City.
Sitting in the back of the van in which Tesar, Pagano and Brislin were traveling too, was a great honor for me.
Unfortunately I was not able to contribute much to the ongoing conversations, mostly between Rave Tesar and Tom Brislin, because I had been up for more than thirty hours at that time.
A nightly check in at the luxury and impressive Taj Mahal hotel at around 3 AM and then finally a good night's rest!
The sound check on the next day caused some problems because of the size of the stage.
The venue was obviously bigger than the other ones Renaissance had been playing and the distance between Annie's transmitter and the receiver was causing some nasty sounds in Annie's 'in ears'.
The problem eventually got solved and that night, on the huge stage, with an even more beautiful lighting,
the performance of the day before was surpassed:
Tesar's intro on Running Hard was impeccable and his impressive soloing as well as the solo's of Tom Brislin and David Keyes in Ashes Are Burning provoked standing ovations from the crowd, as well as after each song.
No doubt the crowd consisted of fans who appreciated the accomplishment of especially Annie Haslam.
The sound was great, especially the sound of Keyes' bass came much closer to the sound of Camp's Rickenbacker bass.
Though the venue was not sold out, still there were approximately over 900 visitors, all ecstatic at the end of the evening.
A massive response from the audience came, when Dunford announced "we will be back" and after the show I heard some rumors about a possible tour with Jethro Tull next year.....
The signing session after the concert went on for well over an hour and shortly after midnight the band disappeared back stage to celebrate the jubilee between themselves and of course the big success of this 9 concert tour.
Fact is that Annie Haslam performed again on December 17 with the same band, but without Michael Dunford.
Obviously Renaissance is not done yet and there seem to be enough fans to keep the fire burning!
Carpet Of The Sun
Things I Don't Understand