The London Astoria, just feet from London Underground's Tottenham
Road tube station, was the venue for the return of Renaissance featuring
Mike Dunford, Annie Haslam and Terry Sullivan from the band's classic
period lineup. The Astoria switches its identity to nightclub during
the evening to maximise revenue, principally derived from its numerous
bars, and this unfortunately limits the lengths of live performances but
it does keep things on schedule. The show is the first following the
band's two weeks of rehearsal in preparation for a week long tour in
Japan to promote their new album Tuscany. Live performances there
will be recorded and a DVD commemorating the tour is already a very
popular topic of conversation.
Our anticipation of the show was certainly equalled by the others
from all corners of the globe that packed into the venue as the
doors opened. The balcony section was reserved for a limited
number of guests but the main floor was packed with enthusiastic fans
from all over the United Kingdom, America, Norway, Belgium, Italy, Germany,
Spain, Japan and even the Middle East. This was our sixth Renaissance
concert, having seen the band in Ithaca, Syracuse and Binghamton a
total of five times during the 1970s. Our trip to the show from our
upstate New York--and now Portsmouth, England--headquarters was
worth every inch of the trans-Atlantic journey.
Claire Hammill opened the show singing and playing guitar herself.
A young man also accompanied her on acoustic guitar. Claire has a
prolific discography and she drew a bunch of tracks from her folk
rock and blues repertoire to create this opening act.
her performance with heartfelt emotion and completely captured the
audience during her half hour set as evidenced by widespread applause
following each song as well as at the conclusion of the set.
An incredible buzz developed in the audience as the orchestral version
of "Prologue" from the Live at the Royal Albert Hall (King Biscuit)
album was played by the house. As the track concluded, the band came to the
stage. In addition to Annie Haslam (vocals), Mike Dunford (acoustic
guitars), Terry Sullivan (drums), the band were comprised of two
keyboard players--Rave Tesar from Annie's band and Mickey Simmonds who
contributed significantly to the band's new album Tuscany. David
Keyes, also from Annie's band, completed the lineup on five string bass.
Wild applause calmed when the opening number "Carpet Of The Sun" began.
Terry Sullivan came to the stage wearing the commemorative Renaissance
t-shirt from the 1996 Northern Lights
website project. John Tout
was in the audience and remained afterwards for chats in the dressing room.
While it's a shame that he didn't perform, we're sure he won't mind us
repeating that he also thought the show was "excellent." And although
some fans clearly missed Jon Camp, David Keyes' outstanding bass and
backing vocal performance impressed everyone. Influenced by both the
band's original bass player and Yes' Chris Squire, Keyes playing and
stagecraft contributed significantly to the band's live performance.
The two keyboards worked extremely well, creating more robust orchestral
Introductions were provided by Annie and Mike in turn through the
set, but the chat was subdued primarily to maximise the time available
for music performance. The set balanced new with old tracks and
spanned the majority of the band's discography. "Midas Man,"
recently released as a live version, was played next, and Annie's
vocalise performance made it clear to all that Annie was absolutely
in top vocal form, further underscored throughout the performance
reaching a full crescendo in "Ashes Are Burning," performed as the
"Lady From Tuscany," a track that blend's the old sound with newer
keyboard textures, worked well in the live setting. Another upbeat
and accessible track from the new album, "Dear Landseer," followed and
the audience, many of whom had not heard the new material, reacted
very positively. The band's hit, "Northern Lights," was played to
wild acclaim as many from the audience joined in the chorus singing
along with the band.
Annie introduced her recent solo album Dawn Of Ananda co-written
largely with Rave Tesar and the band then played "Ananda," a song with
obvious Asian influence, much in the style of "What He Seeks" from
Blessing In Disguise. The combination of musicians on stage led
to an excellent arrangement of this number with Tesar and Keyes being
from Annie's own band and Dunford, Sullivan and Simmonds adding the
Renaissance element. Terry Sullivan's dynamic performance on drums
was certainly one of the highlights of the evening.
From the new album the band played "One Thousand Roses," which again
blends the classic Renaissance sound with live contributions by Rave
Tesar, with more modern keyboard textures provided principally by
Mickey Simmonds. Mike Dunford's acoustic guitars worked perfectly
and it is interesting to note that no electric guitars were used
within the performance.
Two classic tracks concluded the main set. A new arrangement of
"Trip To The Fair," was played for the first time to great effect
primarily due to the two keyboard lineup. While Annie has performed
the song with her band, this is the first time it was played by
Renaissance per se. While the initial laughter was omitted, Annie
made it clear to the audience where it was meant to be! An outstanding
epic performance of "Mother Russia" followed and concluded the brief main
The band returned to play an oustanding rendition of "Ashes Are
Burning," complete with mirror ball as performed years before. The
individual band members' solos were each outstanding beginning with
Rave's keyboard improvisation, Dave's revised bass solo which
unfortunately misses the infamous pedal part and then
Mickey's over the shoulder keyboard conclusion to that segment of
the track. Terry Sullivan's dynamic drum playing stood out. And
Annie's incredibly captivating vocalisations throughout the final
movement brought tears to many eyes as the song reached its
Although many cameras were confiscated by the venue's security patrol,
several images from the show and further comments are available within
Ian Oakley's online
We understand that the promoter was quite satisfied with the response
to the show, especially given the modest advertising and publicity for
the event. Perhaps a more widespread tour will follow the band's
trip to Japan in anticipation of a European and American release of
the band's new album Tuscany.
This revised lineup is certainly working well together. Like many
of the band's enthusiasts, we're keen to see them return to the stage
in Europe and America soon. Yes, this is Renaissance--whilst many might
have believed they wouldn't--they have returned!