Fans of Renaissance and Annie Haslam
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This was posted by user ajcmixer on progressiveears.com, signed Alex:
Walked in thinking they were going to perform Novella first and was happy to be proven wrong, they played the "other stuff" first, a nice selection of mostly old but a couple of new ones. So if you don't want to know then please divert yourself now.
Annie Introduction>Carpet of the Sun
Michael Introduction>Things I Don't Understand
Annie Introduction>Grandine Il Vento
Annie Introduction>Let It Grow (!)
Annie Introduction>Cry To The World
Michael Introduction>Mother Russia>9:05PM
Appx. 20 minute Intermission
Appx 9:25PM>Intro tape>Michael Introduction>Novella>
Can You Hear Me
Annie Introduction of>Main Kickstarter Contributors>Midas Man
Annie Introduction>Featuring Jason Hart on Vocals>Midas Man>only Rave on Piano>Rest of the band on backing vocals where necessary
Michael Introduction>Touching Once
Annie Introductions of the band>Running Hard>10:32PM.
The band was pretty much spot-on instrumentally. I had a great seat (not that it was possible to not have a great seat, The Concert Hall is a very small and intimate venue), Row D Seat 15, an aisle seat directly in line with Annie and Rave and I'm guessing that I caught the band members smiling at some of the early points of the show over my slightly more animated head-bopping to the melodies than most of the rest of the audience though as opposed to my less-than-overall-pleasant-experience@TAAB@NJPAC, I had some slightly less enthusiastic (but enthusiastic nevertheless) folks around me. I could feel the gentleman behind me grooving enthusiastically to the show and my actual seat mate to the right of me in Seat 13 was a knowledgeable fan, having seen them as far back as 1977 (and also happened to be named Alex, a very good sign indeed) and I noticed that he was doing a little head-swaying as well. He was there because his child or children went to school there as well as being a Renaissance fan but he was not aware that Novella was being performed in its entirety and was pleasantly surprised to be caught up before the show started and during intermission on all things Renaissance in the last couple of years by yours truly. After NJPAC it was both a relief and a pleasure to have sat next to a person such as himself...
But back to the show itself. The first couple of songs, pretty much as it has been since '09, had Annie struggling just a little bit as she warmed up her vocal cords up to the task of the material. All things considered and considering she was in that what was obvious to all was the bulky back brace that she had to and will contend with for the rest of this tour, she sang extremely well. She explained the back brace before Carpet of the Sun, joked about how it made her look fatter than the actual fat that she already naturally was at this point but her life but not nearly as fat as the brace made her look. Then she broke into one of those typical Annie self-effacing jokes about being a melon salesperson, a lewd reference... . The crowd eat it up (oh, what a bad pun, !).
I was not expecting Things I Don't Understand but it being one of my favorite songs from the catalog, it was a very pleasant surprise and by the end of the song I was swooning along with it. Not tear-inducing like it was last year but nearly as satisfying.
She then proudly introduced the title track to the new album and it was easily the best sung song to that point, she had a great vocal in it and was rewarded for her terrific singing on it by her and the band easily garnering the longest ovation of the night to that point, prompting Michael to exclaim at the end for it "Did you like that? And for a new song!". You could see everyone beaming with appreciation over the magnificent ovation given to a song played in public for the very first time....
Annie then introduced Let It Grow as the "non-Clapton version" and after it commented as to how rare the song was to be played and that it reached back to the early 70's, then commenting as to how long ago that was prompting Michael to suggest that songs like that be introduced as from "being from a while ago". Smiles abounded on the stage as well as in the audience....
She then explained how excited she was over the next song when Michael handed it over to her to write the lyrics and that she loved it so much that it didn't take her very long to write the lyrics to it. Though not as musically exciting as the title track, Cry To The World was another worthy new track and got another lovely ovation from the appreciative audience that was loving the quality new material in 2012 from one of their favorite bands.
Michael then introduced Mother Russia and it got the standing ovation that it deserved and signaled the end of the 1st set.
I spent the intermission talking with my seat mate Alex about what we had just witnessed and what we were about to witness, a far cry from my last concert-going experience. Thank you, God, for whatever part you had in this show as I needed for both my body and my soul a smother experience than my last one...
The band came back out and Michael stated the obvious and the presentation of Novella started with what easily is a personal top-five Renaissance track and easily on any given day is my favorite track of theirs, Can You Hear Me. In retrospect, I'm glad they set up the evening this way. I had assumed they were going to open the show with it but beforehand wondered how Annie would take to handling such a difficult song, vocally-wise, right off the bat. But now that she had totally warmed up and eventually excelled with the "other stuff" in the 1st set I knew that she would be ready in the 2nd set to tackle Novella and she did, she nailed 98% of Can You Hear Me and any quibbles of anything was overshadowed by the fact the they were performing one of my favorite songs by anybody. It was breathtaking and exhilarating and I'm surprised I was not shedding tears of joy at the end of it. They bought it to a full stop but without any real pause segued into The Sisters and though the band struggled a bit to present the fullness of the sound as on the album that, once again, was a minor quibble by song's end as history was made by it's first public performance ever and the knowledgeable and appreciative audience might have taken that into consideration as they gave them another lovely ovation in appreciation over what they had just witnessed.
Same with Midas Man and part of the problem was that Jason Hart IMHO was under miked for most of the evening and you could see Annie asking the monitor engineer at many points throughout the evening to raise Jason's keyboards up in the mix further and I hope that the future performances do not have such issues as it did adversely affect some of the songs due to not being able to hear the fullness in the songs due to his keyboards aka orchestral passages not being as prominent in the mix as they were on the albums themselves. I will mention that the rest of the band was in the mix as necessary/required to these ears and overall I thought that the mix (except for Jason) and the sound was very good throughout the evening.
Annie then mentioned that the following song had not been performed many times at all (I never saw the band perform it at all but did see Annie perform it on one of her solo tours with her band@Club Bene, it was tear-inducing at the time...) and then stated that Jason would also be featured with her and then performed a as-perfect-a-version of The Captive Heart as they could have perfomed and it elicited another lovely ovation from the appreciative audience.
Michael then stated that the next and final song was the final song that they ever had worked with a live orchestra and then proceeded to introduce Touching Once. I must say that during the middle part of the song Annie really flubbed the lyrics, actually laughed it off during the song and actually missed another line while doing so and I must say that the band's faces, especially Michael, well, the looks, lets say, were, errrr, priceless! Though Michael didn't looked very pleased at all.... That said, they rallied for the conclusion of the song and garnered one of the standing ovations as they soaked it all in....
They walked off and the audience got into a rythmic clapping and they stepped back onto the stage, beaming with appreciation. Annie introduced the band (Jason Hart on keyboards and vocals, David Keyes on bass and vocals, Joe Goldberger, her former drummer from her solo band taking over the reigns from Frank Pagano on drums, Rave Tesar primarily on piano but on other keyboards, too, as well as serving as the musical director for the band) and then proceeded to perform Running Hard and one final ovation and a couple of bows (sans Annie due to the back brace) and the night was over by 10:35PM
All in all, a very successful and highly satisfying performance. I never dreamt that I would have seen this band live in concert again, especially in 2012. And even after the unlikely reunion in '09 and the show thereafter, I would have never dreamt that I would have seen Scheherazade (as well as Turn of the Cards) performed in its entirety. And, now, Novella in its entirety. I'm sorry that Annie and the band had to cancel the first half of the tour but the silver lining in that was that I would be in the house for the 1st-ever public performance of Novella and I strutted out of the venue proud as a peacock towards the subway walking through Central Park on the way home smiling ear to ear that I was given the opportunity, through arguably one of the worst years of my life, to witness the excellence and beauty that is still Renaissance in 2012.
Annie is still Annie and all the good that is that. She still has those nearly glass-shattering moments and Novella, despite the lyrical flub in Touching Once, was magical. The new material definitely had signs that the magic is still there and the old material is still welcomed as the songs that were an integral part of the musical fabric of my life. I am both thankful and appreciative that both they and myself were able to converge collectively last night for an extremely satisfying evening of top-notch music. Long Live Renaissance. And their fans... !