Renaissance @ Rockefeller Park (6/23/2010)

Renaissance had returned to NYC once again and was performing in Rockefeller Park as part of the River To River Festival.  This free outdoor concert was going to pair them up with the legendary Steve Hackett (formerly of Genesis) and I could think of no two acts that would fit together so well.  Click the bands logo below to read the full article on the main site.  We have tons of photos of both performers that we think you will enjoy very much.

Logo - Renaissance

Artist: Renaissance
Venue: Rockefeller Park (New York, NY)
Opener: Steve Hackett
Date: 6/23/2010
Label: Independent Artist

Tonight promised to be a very cool evening even though the summer heat was blazing down upon us and holding firm at just over 90 degrees. The show that was happening would be one that would close out my almost daily attendance of killer shows that had been happening around the city over the last several days. This evening was more of a Progressive meets Classical Art Rock night but I had started out my adventures with the likes of Pestilence, a legendary Technical Death Metal band from the Netherlands and followed their show with a little big of Gregg Rolie Band, Winger, Three Friends and Uriah Heep………whew. It makes me tired just mentally revisiting it. The event on the musical menu tonight would be held down in beautiful Rockefeller Park in Battery Park City and this outdoor event was a part of the River To River Festival that was sponsored by American Express. It’s nice to find such a major company doing its best to deliver free music to the fans during these trying economic times and this pairing was certainly something very interesting to be a part of because the show found the legendary Classical Art Rock band Renaissance performing with the equally legendary Steve Hackett from Genesis. The idea that these two great talents were going to present music to their fans in this wonderful setting was very simply awesome. Here is how the night went for those who did not make it down to the show.

Steve Hackett: Musically speaking I was first introduced to Hackett’s former band Genesis many years after he had already departed and it was not until I developed an appreciation for the band Marillion that a friend suggested I check out the older Genesis stuff to see just how incredibly diverse it was. I admit that I never followed any of his solo work before either but I was quite happy to find him releasing new material on InsideOut Music, as they are a leader in Progressive Rock and Metal releases. I’m positive that they will be able to do justice to his new album “Out Of The Tunnel’s Mouth” and with this gig he would be presenting us with some material from that recording and other surprises. Hackett would open up with “Every Day” and then begin showcasing the new stuff with “Fire On The Moon” and it sounded very, very good. You know that new material has promise when it grabs you even at your very first listen. His guitar sound was crisp and fluid and even though we were outside, there was nothing being lost in the space around us and instead was all being absorbed by interested folks who had assembled on his behalf. I think a good couple of hundred folks were already in the park when he began his set and that had to be nice to see from his vantage point. Joining Steve in his band was a group of players that were bringing a lot to the table themselves and they were Roger King (keyboards), Nick Beggs (bass/Chapman stick), Amanda Lehmann (guitar), Gary O’Toole (drums) and Rob Townsend (sax/flute). King acts as the group’s musical director and seems to keep everything in check during the course of the set and Amanda trades lead breaks with Hackett and shows that she is a wonderful player herself. Bassist Beggs showed that he was not too shy, shy and sported a cowboy hat and leather kilt tonight and was doing some serious work on the bass and then the Chapman stick as the night progressed. Sorry for the almost unavoidable Kajagoogoo quip, but I could not resist the chance to reference the bassist’s notable past.

Steve would do “Ace Of Wands” from one of his earlier solo releases and then give us “Sleepers” from the new one, and it was another winner. He then introduced a bluesy number from the album in “Still Waters”. The fans hoping for some old Genesis got their wish as the guitarist delivered “Los Endos” and with that the band all walked off stage but you knew an encore was imminent. He quickly returned and apologized for the quick set and said that this was based on the curfew that they had to follow. Being an outside gig that meant this all needed to end by 10pm or so to allow for proper cleanup. The final song would be “Clocks – The Angel Of Mons” which is an instrumental that originally was delivered on his 1979 “Spectral Mornings” album. Once this was finished, the set was over and those who had only come to see Steve perform tried to get a moment of his attention at the tour bus. A quick changeover was done by the festival technicians and now it was time for Renaissance to present us their wares.

Renaissance: If you read my previous review of the Renaissance show that was held at The Concert Hall back in October 2009, then you already know that I’ve listened to their music for a very long time and have always found it to be wonderful and creative stuff. The funny thing to me is that even after such a long period of liking what they do that it was at the Concert Hall gig that I found myself seeing the band for the very first time. That show celebrated their 40th Anniversary and presented a Renaissance for the new generation of fans and I was very pleased to find them taking part in this free River To River concert. The setting for the band this evening was perfect and while the heat of the summer had really kicked in for the earlier part of the day and the Steve Hackett set, by the time that Renaissance had took to the stage the breeze from the Hudson River was coming in and the sun was setting and hence bringing on a much more tolerable temperature for the audience. A quick announcement from the stage manager found the band kicking into “Prologue” which is a pretty standard opening tune for the band and they would follow this with “Carpet Of The Sun”. This is a very radio-friendly tune and could be heard in regular rotations back in the bands original heyday. “Things I Don’t Understand” came up next and had the audience clapping in time to the music when it was needed but surely the band was fine without any assistance from us. For those who are not too familiar about the band’s origins, they formed in 1969 but it was when members changed a few short years later that they came into the largest prominence. From that lineup we find singer Annie Haslam and guitarist Michael Dunford still maintaining the band charge into the present day. The sound of the band was incredible and Annie spoke about what a beautiful night it was for live music in the park. There is just something about the sound of Renaissance that works in this atmosphere and I think everyone was in tune with this tonight. As the band played there was hardly a sound as the fans sat almost hypnotized at the amazing notes that Annie is still able to deliver to the crowd. Vocally, Ms. Haslam has a five-octave vocal range and those who find singing as their interest can clearly learn a lot from her with every note.

Just like at that last show, Annie and Michael were the only members of the “Classic Lineup” of Renaissance and the rest of the players were the same ones from the anniversary dates. That meant we had Rave Tesar (piano), Tom Brislin (keyboards), Frank Pagano (drums) and David Keyes (bass). Having seen this band in action before I can say that the Renaissance material is in amazing hands and each of these players are exceptional musicians. A friend of mine wondered about the lack of an electric guitar, so I had to explain how a larger portion of the bands material is driven by both the piano and the bass. Rave is fantastic and was delivering every note with apparent ease and David was equally formidable on the bass. If the audience was hoping for other legacy members to be a part of the show they were certainly not making their voices heard tonight and that was a very good thing because this was a fantastic presentation of some truly moving music. The band showed that they have new life in them as they introduced a brand new epic to our ears with “The Mystic and The Muse”, and this song brings the sound of Renaissance into the now. It is dramatic and deep, and musically sound. I felt it worked well within the context of their legacy tunes and stood strong on its own as well. If there is a new album coming with more tunes like this, I feel we shall have a new rise of Renaissance. “Running Hard” was the last “official” song from the set and after a standing ovation the band left the stage briefly only to return to drop us all with a thundering “Mother Russia” as their encore. Sadly, since the bands songs are rather long we would only get the six of them and when I checked my watch it seemed as though the band played for just under an hour.

Since this was to be an abbreviated performance we would find songs like “Midas Man”, “Black Flame”, “Northern Lights”, “Ocean Gypsy” and “Ashes Are Burning” being omitted and while that was a shame, I was happy that we enjoyed some Renaissance as opposed to none. When they do a full on set, it is about two hours and that is necessary since they were epic before the term was overused. I recommend their show to anyone that enjoys skillful use of Progressive Rock and Classical elements because the band excels at this and has not lost any luster. As I glanced around the crowd I noticed a lot of younger faces and apparent newbie’s. This was a very good thing as this band brings a lot to the table and deserves the attention. I hope they come back soon so I can see them again and I will also be crossing my fingers about the eventual appearance of a new full length album. This was truly time well spent and I am glad that I attended.

Hackett Set List:
1. Every Day
2. Fire on the Moon
3. Ace Of Wands
4. Sleepers
5. Still Waters
6. Los Endos
7. Clocks – The Angel of Mons – encore

Renaissance Set List:
1. Prologue
2. Carpet Of The Sun
3. Things I Don’t Understand
4. The Mystic and the Muse
5. Running Hard
6. Mother Russia – encore

I had not been to an outdoor Rock show in a couple of years and if memory serves me correctly, the last time was also for a River To River Event and this one was featuring the New York Dolls.  If you are interested, you can enjoy that article HERE.  That particular show was at the South Street Seaport.  Tonight I would be heading to the exact opposite side of Manhattan Island for the show and getting to enjoy Rockefeller Park for the very first time.

Welcome To Rockefeller Park

This is the signage that one sees on the inside of the pedestrian bridge that let’s you safely cross the street.  I opted to use this today since I wanted to see how it looked inside.  I am a little curious after all.

The Picturesque Rockefeller Park

This is a shot just off to the entrance of the park and when you go further down there is an area with lots of tables and benches that people can convene around.  Its also the location of many statues by sculptor Tom Otterness.  I did a narrative of his “Life Underground” exhibit over on – Please check it out if that kind of stuff interests you.

River To River Festival presents Renaissance & Steve Hackett

Here is a closeup of one of the banners that hung from the top of the decently sized stage.

The Stage Is Set

As you can see, the stage is pretty much a large gazebo kind of podium and they enhanced it with all of the great Rock Show periphery.  Lighting tresses, speaker cabinets and fence barricade to keep the audience at bay while the bands play on.  Behind the slightly visible gates was our eager Progressive Rock audience.

The Steve Hackett/Renaissance Support Structure

This serves as a small glimpse of the few hundred assembled for the show and also an image that presents to the world a setting sun over the buildings in Jersey City.  My friend felt this was rather artsy, so I will not argue with him.  Oh and one more thing that was rather amusing about this show.

PiercingKen in the Hot Seat

You might be asking why one of the chairs at the show has my name stuck on it, well, I was given the chance to enjoy press seats today and that meant sitting right in the front row.  To be sure no one snared these spaces from those doing their media thing, the press reps for the festival gave you a paper with your name to attach to the seat that you had selected from the available ones reserved.  I opted for dead center since it was open and would provide maximum musical appreciation for me.  I felt that the name tag for the chair was was highly amusing and something worthy of sharing with you all.  My friends got a kick out of it too.  Please, no autographs.  OK, maybe just a couple 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Renaissance @ Rockefeller Park (6/23/2010)”

  1. This was indeed a great concert. I am a huge Hackett fan and was not disappointed. I had heard of Renaissance but had never heard their music. I was extremely impressed. Good recap of the event Mr. Pierce.

  2. This was a wonderful show. Annie’s vocals are still one to marvel at. Yes, a little bit on the short side, but as we’re all up there in age, it’s not a big deal anymore, at least not to me.

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