Annie Haslam made her first solo appearance in Baltimore, Friday May 8, 1998. Although the crowd was not as large as the band would have liked, the people who showed up were very polite and quite enthusiastic. The venue was Orion Studios, a warehouse hidden in south Baltimore. When you first arrive, you can't help thinking you've made a wrong turn somewhere, because you are in the middle of an industrial park. Hardly the place one would expect to find the celestial Annie! The owners seemed dedicated to prog rock and the sound qualtity was excellent.
The fact that most people were on cushions on the floor or lawn chairs, gave the show a very informal and intimate atmosphere. This prompted Dave Biglin to ask if we all knew each other. Although they were on unfamiliar turf, and perhaps in spite of it, the band put on an exciting and spirited performance. Here is the set list:
Carpet of the Sun
Lily's in the Field
Man in a Box
Summon the Angels
Spare Some Love
Wishin' On a Star
Ashes Are Burning (Encore)
"Carpet of the Sun" was a great ice breaker for the new venue. I have been trying to get Annie to play Baltimore for years and I was really hoping for a successful show. Annie joked, as she had at the TLA a few weeks before, that we should try to sound like an even larger crowd. "Lily's in the Field," added to the set during this tour, gave us a chance to hear some of the Steve Howe/Annie collaboration performed live.
The new track "Man in a Box" was one of the show stoppers. Written by the four band members in March/April of 1998, it is a sad song about an aborigine whose remains end up in a museum and because of the efforts of a sentimental curator, he is returned to the earth in Australia. It was very different and very powerful. The opening sequenced didgeridoo sounds were fun and Annie asked Rave Tesar to play just the beginning again.
When asked about the upcoming Renaissance reunion album, Annie was emphatic that this was only a studio get together and would not be hitting the road. She claimed, wisely, that this band and life was too good to give up. "Opening Out" was a pleasant surprise and sounded fantastic. She did "Seashell Eyes" with aching poignancy. This song was originally slated for the movie "The Last Unicorn," but hadn't seen the light of day until Annie started playing it a few years ago.
"Spare Some Love" and "Mother Russia" were big crowd pleasers. Annie hit notes at the ends of "Wishin' on a Star" and "Ashes Are Burning" that most singers leave alone, but that she attains consistantly. The band seems to blend together better all the time, without even having a full-time bassist. Joe Goldberger is brilliant behind the drums, especially on pieces like "Mother Russia" and "Ashes" where his mixture of power and subtlety is pefect. Dave Biglin can play all his instruments with the same playful prowess. His antics are always worth a good laugh. Rave Tesar has become ever more accomplished behind the keyboards and provided an amazing solo in "Ashes Are Burning." They seemed take take "Ashes" all over the place in the jam even into jazz.
All in all it was a very satisfying show for everyone. All of us were all suitably impressed. There was a great sense of togetherness and energy. Let's hope the crowd can spread the word about Annie's show and help make Baltimore a frequent stop for Annie in the future.