16th April 2015 Union Chapel
“Let everyone know Renaissance are back” singer Annie Haslam announces to an eager audience who have waited since 2001 for the pioneering prog rock band to return to the UK, it's also their their first time touring Europe for 30 years! These days
Annie, who resides in the US is the only original member after the tragic death of Michael Dunford in 2012. Even through the band continued to work in the intervening years, mainly in America, there have been several line-up changes over the last three decades. One thing which has remained a constant is Annie Haslam and her distinctive ethereal vocals and powerful 5 octave range – which she still maintains and demonstrates proudly tonight. The set list is perfectly chosen to appeal to long-standing fans and newcomers alike and encapsulated the Renaissance sound and versatility.
The glorious architecture and acoustics of the Union Chapel make the perfect backdrop for hour and a half show. Annie takes to the stage barefoot and dressed in a flowing gown, suitable attire for the high priestess of prog. The band launch straight into their 10 song set with Prologue from the 1972 album of the same name and show no signs of letting their absence hold them back. Hearing Ocean Gypsy and Carpet Of The Sun performed live with Annie's mature vocals is simply stunning; Mark Lambert on guitar and harmony vocals really helps embellish this throughout.
Expert musicianship from the band breathes new life and texture into the tracks, which is wonderful to hear. The newer material Grandine Il Vento and Symphony Of Light are raised to a whole new level when performed live thanks to Rave Tesar and Tom Brislin on Keyboards and the virtuoso drum work of Frank Pagano. There is an energy and profound excitement from watching the band perform these songs that can't be captured on record. After the weighty orchestral numbers comes Northern Lights, which despite being their most accessible and commercial song, doesn't feel out of place against the long form tracks. Mother Russia, a clear crowd favourite from the album Turn Of The Cards closes the set. After an epic encore of Ashes Are Burning which includes some superb ad-lib vocals from Annie and bass playing from Leo Traversa, it is very clear that Renaissance are back - Just don't leave it so long next time!