Having seen Renaissance live five times between 1979 and 1983 in the United Kingdom, I made the trip to Japan from Singapore, where I currently work, to see the concerts in Nagoya and Tokyo.
The atmosphere was slightly different at the two venues. Nagoya's Bottom Line is a smaller and more intimate setting, whilst Tokyo's Kosei Nenkin hall seats over 2,000. The sound was also different, partly because I saw the Nagoya concert almost from underneath Mickey Simmonds keyboards, whilst I was in the centre of the balcony for the Tokyo concert.
The orchestral version of "Prologue" from the 1977 Royal Albert Hall live recording was played as an introduction, with the band making their entrance towards the end.
The particular highlights for me started with the second number "Opening Out," which I'd never heard played live before and followed immediately by a wonderful full-length version of "Midas Man," with Rave Tesar working tirelessly on the piano filigree parts. "Lady from Tuscany" worked best of the new songs, Annie's voice soaring on the vocalise parts. I never tire of hearing "Mother Russia," and this was performed really well, with the use of two keyboards helping to build the orchestral sound. This was followed by "A Trip to the Fair," which for me was the overall highlight, excellently arranged with the complimentary keyboards working particularly well, Rave Tesar taking the piano parts and Mickey Simmonds the other keyboard effects including the 'fairground' transition from the piano introduction. Annie's voice, particularly in Tokyo, sounded at its best on the more traditional Renaissance tracks rather than the up-tempo ones.
The first encore was poignant, with the three 'classic' line-up members of Annie Haslam, Michael Dunford and Terry Sullivan giving a rendition of "I Think of You." This preluded a full-blown version of the traditional sign-off, "Ashes are Burning," which was particularly well performed in Tokyo, and sounded surprisingly fresh. This featured manic keyboard playing by Rave Tesar, an 'electric guitar' solo by Mickey Simmonds, a bass / drum dialogue, and of course the Voice sounding better and higher than ever in the finale.
Of the other new songs, "Dear Landseer" worked well, with its Highland effects providing a nice contrast. "One Thousand Roses," the final song before the encores, came across best in Tokyo with Annie's final flourish a full octave higher than in the recorded version.
Of Annie's solo songs "Precious One" (performed in Tokyo) provided a nice reflective moment, and Ananda gave an interesting contrast with its Indian flavour. Terry Sullivan's percussion made a big contribution to this number, which benefitted from live performance.
The band worked well together and, whilst Jon Camp's bass was missing, Dave Keyes made a valuable contribution to both bass and vocals.
I had never dreamed of a new Renaissance album until Tuscany came about, let alone live performances. After all these years it felt quite unbelievable to see them live again. The concerts were thoroughly enjoyable, really well performed and very enthusiastically received by their Japanese fans. The band, and above all Terry Sullivan, seemed to enjoy themselves.
Renaissance have shown that they still have plenty to offer. Here's hoping for plenty more to come.
Carpet of the Sun
Lady from Tuscany
Pearls of Wisdom
Precious One (Tokyo only)
Trip to the Fair
One Thousand Roses
I Think of You
Ashes Are Burning