|Ticket and Backstage Pass courtesy of Jim Wood/tr>|
The Astoria is not the most comfortable of venues to see Annie Haslam Live as there is no seating, but by the time Annie, Mike Dunford and keyboard player Mickey Simmonds took the stage, the place had filled up with what looked like many of the old fans from the 70s, eager to see Annie again after so many years.
And of course we weren't disappointed. Annie, Mike and Mickey appeared at 8pm to rapturous applause and cheers and went straight into "Carpet of the Sun." Just as the first chorus was reached, one of Annie's earrings decided to break in two and one of the pieces jumped straight down her top which caused Annie to briefly break her flow and gave everyone a moment of humour. I was fairly close to the front and it felt wonderful to see Annie and Mike up close. The 20 years since I had seen them last as Renaissance seemed to melt away as if they never happened.
"I Think of You" was next, always a beautiful song, but next was a really nice surprise, "Midas Man." It was twelve years since Annie and Mike had appeared together on the same stage, so I felt this song was very appropriate. It sounded just like it should complete with the male harmonies and Mickey Simmonds reproducing John Tout's piano flourishes perfectly. Mickey was using midi-files for the bass and drum parts which although not ideal, at least gave us the sound of a full band. Next up was "Seashell Eyes," one of Annie's newer songs which most of us had heard on her Live Under Brazilian Skies album. Another surprise was a rearranged version of "Blessing in Disguise" which had a rhythmical guitar part which had the effect of making the song move more. "Moonlight Shadow" followed before which Annie revealed that she had been told that the original Mike Oldfield version sounded like her so she thought she may as well do it anyway.
The song "Brazilian Skies" also from the live album preceded the only new Renaissance song in the set which is called "Eva's Pond." This featured just piano and voice and reminded me a little of "Captive Heart" from Novella, Mike Dunford did not play on this one and "Seashell Eyes". It seemed way too short a set but already it was time for "Northern Lights" with everybody singing along on the chorus. The response was tremendous when the song ended and we tried valiantly to bring them back for an encore but without success, probably due to the rigid time scales of The Astoria.
This was Annie's first major concert appearance in the UK for many years and the response she received was heart-warming. I fervently hope that Annie returns soon to these shores and plays a much longer set in a more suitable venue, either with her own band or as is hoped, with a reformed Renaissance.