It was a sunny and temperate August day in Manhattan, a perfect setting for the warm welcome and sizzling performance by Annie Haslam those fortunate concertgoers would experience at the Bottom Line Cabaret Theater.
Thanks to the club's layout, everyone in the house had a great view of the entire stage. The seats were full for the first show, which started at 7:30 PM. The second show started at 10:30 PM and was attended by dedicated fans that would stay past 1:00 AM for the opportunity to hear the band perform.
As a preliminary treat for the already enthusiastic patrons, music was provided by Alcove recording artist Karen Savoca before Annie and company took the stage. Accompanied by Peter Heitzman on guitars, Karen played percussion and sang 5 songs, all of which were very well received by the crowd.
Following a brief intermission, David "Squiggy" Biglin (on synthesizer, electric bass and acoustic guitar), Joe Goldberger (drums), and Rave Tesar (piano) took the stage, along with Annie. The first tune was struck up on instruments by Rave and Joe, and in a one-sided casual conversation between David and the sound crew that was comprised of David's comment "I got nuthin" repeated over and over as fingers falling upon keys yielded mild "concern" -- and no sound. The presentation of "The Angels Cry" was superb nonetheless, with Annie singing flawlessly, as she would throughout the evening. The difficulty with David's synth was corrected quickly, and the show continued without a hitch.
The crowd response to the opening number was quite impressive, so much so that Annie was beside herself as she introduced the next song as "... from Prologue: Let it Grow." After a wonderful piano intro and smooth melodies filling the theater, the song came to an end and Annie clarified the issue, stating that it was actually from the Ashes Are Burning album. No matter though, as the audience could find no fault with the excellent performances of all four band members.
With two songs to their credit, the band moved on to another song about angels: "... one that was recorded in Brazil to be on a new album ..." and Annie's words were very well received. The song, "Summon the Angels," was written by Annie and David and is a testament to the songwriting skills of the pair.
The next song was written by Annie and Rave Tesar, and was inspired by something that Annie had seen in Pennsylvania, where she lives. A new development was being built, resulting in the unfortunate cutting down of many trees. Between two oak trees, someone had hung a sheet that had written on it: "Goodbye trees. We loved you so well." Much to her credit, Annie is concerned about nature and animals on our small planet, and was so touched by the sight that she and Rave composed "Goodbye Trees," a heartfelt ballad that impressed all in attendance. Annie stated before performing the tune: "I talk to trees they have a soul." This solidified her connection with the audience and she sang the song with such emotion that all realized not only her singing and songwriting talents, but also her caring for all living things.
The fifth song of the evening was written prior to Annie's very successful venture to Brazil during early 1997. Intended for the audiences there, "Brazilian Skies" was undoubtedly received as well in New York as it was in Rio de Janeiro. Highlighted by soaring organ rhythms and outstanding South American style drum works, it brought the audience to a fever pitch, as demonstrated by resounding applause and countless cheers.
The next song was audience participation to the extreme, as Annie and David tipped off the audience to the impending birthday of Joe Goldberger. "Happy Birthday" ensued for Joe whose birthday is, well, he wouldn't say exactly when.
The band then played a tune that caught many by surprise. One of Annie's favorites, she stated: "This goes back to 1979. I got paid 300 pounds for doing this, and I went out and bought my very first camera. The album was called The Intergalactic Touring Band. The idea was that we are in a huge spaceship, and we can look out the windows and see the Earth, and we really missed it. We can see it, but we can't get to it." The piece, "Reaching Out" is a gem of both songwriting and Annie's vocal range, and the audience was visibly impressed with both. Annie was also impressed with Michael Chavis, who presented her with a bouquet of flowers, and offered a sincere "Welcome Back" to one of the very few performers who maintains a strong connection with her fans.
The song selection then moved forward to 1989, to a song that Annie wrote with Larry Fast. It was inspired by a "little lady only about five feet high," a clairvoyant that Annie had visited during the breakup of Renaissance. Dedicated to her, the band played the song that bears her name: "Celestine." A favorite of many in attendance to be sure, as the audience response reached a new high, clearly indicating that this little cabaret was the place to be that Saturday night.
The eighth song was introduced after Annie thanked David Pratt, who had traveled all the way from England to see the show. David, along with all the others at The Bottom Line, were then treated to "What He Seeks" from the Blessing In Disguise album. Joe Goldberger demonstrated his flair for playing the drums for all they are worth, as he put the song - and the audience - into high gear with his performance.
Annie, now becoming the unwilling victim of the hot stage lamps, needed a towel to assist her bottle of Evian water in keeping her comfortable, so the crowd was treated to David tuning-up his guitar for the next song. A comedian to be sure, "Squiggy" did an excellent job of keeping the audience's attention until Annie's return less than a minute later. Prompted by Annie, 400 voices sang the chorus - and the words they knew - of "Spare Some Love," a wonderful tune from the first Renaissance album Annie sang on, Prologue.
The last song of the regular set was then introduced by Annie who "... used to introduce this with my hair parted in the middle ..." From Turn of the Cards, the band's rendition of "Mother Russia" practically brought down the house, as David moved from keyboards to acoustic guitar and back to keyboards with perfection, Joe didn't miss a beat, Rave tickled the ivories flawlessly, and Annie sang as if this show - and this audience - were all that existed in the whole world. The resulting applause and cheering left the audience just as exhausted as the band after the superb 10-song show. The band managed to remain off stage for a mere 3 minutes before acknowledging the now-shaking walls, agreeing to furnish the audience with what they would not be denied: an encore in every sense of the word.
And what an encore it was! A classic -- performed to a 'T' - that was the ensuing 20 minutes called "Ashes Are Burning". Unbelievable!
For those that were there, it was a night to be remembered for all time. It was the first opportunity I had to see Annie perform live, and the entire evening is a credit to David Biglin, Joe Goldberger and Rave Tesar - as well as Annie Haslam -- for providing the audience with much more than can be described by these mere words.
For those who have not had the great privilege of seeing the band live - DO SO! You will not be disappointed. And hang out after the show - you might even get to meet the band - like so many did on August 2nd.