It’s always a wonderful musical experience when one is able to catch the legendary Renaissance in concert and while I had grown up with many of their classic tunes it was not until a couple of years ago that I was finally able to enjoy them in the live sense. To catch people up on things, Renaissance is a band that was founded way back in 1969 but they would come to larger public popularity with a complete lineup change that took place in 1971. This became the quintessential Renaissance lineup and for years they impressed the senses with adventurous musical creativity that tastefully and successfully blended Progressive Rock with Classical Music like no other had ever heard. In today’s music realm the group has singer Annie Haslam and guitarist Michael Dunford from the classic lineup along with several other incredible musicians. Together they have become the newest incarnation of Renaissance and bring their material to new generations of fans. Tonight’s show was one of two select regional appearances and would find the group performing two of the most celebrated works in the Renaissance discography – the 1974 “Turn Of The Cards” and 1975’s “Scheherazade and Other Stories”. Needless to say my friend and I were very excited about this performance.
A great classical music opening was played over the venue systems and it appeared to be Renaissance tunes as delivered by a symphony orchestra. I really enjoyed this and am hoping that I can locate a copy to purchase. It would be a shame if this was not the case. As the house lights went down the members of the band hit the stage and as mentioned this features Michael Dunford from the classic lineup on guitar along with Rave Tesar on keyboards, David J. Keyes on Bass Guitar, Jason Hart on Keyboards and Vocals and Frank Pagano on Drums and Vocals. The band was the same as the last time I caught them with the exception of Hart on keyboards. He is new and replaces Tom Brislin. Welcome aboard Jason, show us what you got. The familiar sounds of “Running Hard” began the night and the crowd was quite happy and when Annie Haslam hit the stage the applause was thunderous and one could see just how moved Annie was by the response. I had to admit it was awesome to see that kind of response being the case. The tempo slowed down with “I Think Of You” which is a beautiful tune and with the band performing each release in the order of the albums tracks you were going to get these peaks and valleys in the show. “Things I Don’t Understand” is always a favorite but I was eager for “Black Flame”. This one started off fine both musically and vocally but at one short point it seemed like Annie lost her concentration and flubbed a note. It was a quick recovery and one expects no less from a singer with a five octave vocal range. Throughout the set Annie teased the fans asking what we were drinking and could she have some. The warm reception surely had to be something awesome from her vantage point. “Cold Is Being” showcased the talents of Mr. Hart and it was a solemn and brooding track that I really enjoyed. They had not played a number of these tunes the last time around so each was being met with great enthusiasm. “Mother Russia” is another epic length tune and if there were ever a song to hold lighters or cell phones up for this would be the tune. From here the band would take a short breather and return to give us the second portion of the show.
The second act would be a complete performance of “Scheherazade and Other Stories” which was introduced by Annie as she began “A Trip To The Fair”. This is a warm and pleasant tune but kind of sad when one listens close to the lyrics. Before “The Vultures Fly High” Michael informed the audience that the song was written about the critics that they encountered in their early years. “Ocean Gypsy” is always a nice inclusion and had the audience at an all time emotional high but now for the coup de grace for this part of the night. The complete “Scheherazade” song which spans about 25 minutes and has many diverse parts to it as well. This was the first time that I had heard them do this live and It was really amazing to witness just how solid both Rave and David were at the material and while I mean no slight to Jason or Michael, these guys were just killing it with note after note. Renaissance is such a piano and bass driven group that one needs to have incredible musicians at these two roles in the lineup. Thankfully the music of Renaissance is in good hands as long as they are a part of the touring lineup.
At the close of the epic tune the entire audience in the venue gave a standing ovation that lasted several minutes. The band left the stage but was back very quickly to do the newest track in their set list which is “The Mystic And The Muse”. Towards the end of the song Annie forgot a line and enhanced the delivery of it by singing how she had forgotten the line. The whole crowd laughed along with her and it was totally fine. All were on their feet again as the last note played and Annie mentioned how they would be heading to Europe and be recording a live DVD and CD from it. That will be exciting when it gets released and will surely appease the fans. I look forward to the next time that Renaissance comes around and thank them for giving NYC this great evening of music once again.
My one complaint on the whole night would have to be based on the fact that since the Concert Hall was allowing people their drinks inside the space that many decided to toss their empties onto the floor amidst the pews that serve as the seats. These pews are cushioned and there is a quiet elegance to the space but this action really made the ambience more “Metal show” and a Renaissance event is nothing of the sort, so I was saddened at the sight. My concert companion pointed this out to me at first and I had to agree with her about it. How hard is it to walk to a bin only twenty feet away people? Let’s not leave a marred image on the bands following now shall we.
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Official Web Site: www.renaissancetouring.com
Official Web Site: www.anniehaslam.com
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