The last time we saw Annie Haslam was with Renaissance circa-1976 in upstate New York. Twenty years later, her live performance is equally as inspiring and her stage presence is unequaled anywhere in the world. She played fourteen songs in the main set and two encores to an excited audience filled with long-time fans. Annie and the band seem to have had a terrific time at the show and were very relaxed and natural. The between song chat was terrific and there were lots of the now famous Haslam laughs. The overall spontaneity made this show especially memorable.
Sojourn opened the show tastefully with a set of new and currently released tracks; the new tracks will appear on an album just recorded scheduled for release either late this year or early next. The songs were performed with lots of emotion and were done very professionally. The band is definitely coming into their own and enjoyed getting laughs out of the audience during and inbetween their songs. The highlight of their performance for many in the audience was their encore of "Your Move" originally recorded by Yes. Judging their performance by CDs sold during the interlude, they had a very successful evening. Sojourn was an excellent opening act for Annie Haslam and her band.
Annie came on stage with her band at about 9:00PM and played for about an hour and 45 minutes. Joe Goldberger was on drums, Rave Tesar was on keyboards as was Dave Biglin who also played guitar on some of the songs. The band was very comfortable and relaxed despite some adjustments that were made to the on-stage monitors during the performance. The interaction amongst them was terrific and the almost constant joking was ever so enjoyable.
Here is the set list:
By quickly scanning the set list it is evident that material was drawn from many periods to construct the show. "Moonlight Shadow" was the opening number and it was performed far more acoustically with substantially less backing than the album version or even other live recordings we've heard. The audience loved it.
The new songs in the track list were written by Annie either with David Biglin, Rave Tesar or Tony Visconti. The song "Sometimes" is by Malcolm McGee and Annie told the audience that it will be included on the forthcoming Annie Haslam/Steve Howe collaboration which is still in the works.
Annie introduced the next track as one which we'd all know, most likely because the prior two were new to many of us. The band began to play the introduction to "Northern Lights" with an excited audience clapping right away. A super performance by Annie and the band brought many in the audience to their feet at the end with their applause. During the applause, a long-time fan gave Annie a dozen roses; this brought a huge smile to her face, a few thankful comments and even more applause from an already excited audience. A new song "Sleepless Mother" followed. We found this song as the new songs played before it to be very much in the Renaissance style.
Annie introduced the song "The Children" next with a short narrative explaining the important background of the song; her performance was wonderful and the live accompanyment worked well. Annie mentioned that her album Still Life has been reissued on OneWay in her introduction to the title track she sang next accompanied by Rave and Dave. It was a terrific rendition of the song and the lack of a full orchestra didn't diminish the impact one bit. "After The Oceans Are Gone" followed and sounded as great live as it does on the Blessing In Disguise album.
The song "Sometimes" was performed next. It's a lovely acoustic based song that's going to sound great on the Annie Haslam/Steve Howe album when it finally emerges. This song has been performed before by Steve Howe and although the song didn't go beyond the demo stage, serious Yes fans may have recordings of it in their live performance archives. Annie said that Steve asked her to sing this song and after hearing it live, we can understand why. It's just lovely.
After a good bit of joking around on stage and with certain outspoken members of the audience, Annie's beautiful rendition of "Turn Of The Century" followed. The climax of the song was just terrific and this likely capped a very memorable and amusing performance for those of us that saw the concert. The lyrics for the song seem to go on forever and Annie made a point of telling the audience so following the applause she received when the song was over. We had wanted to hear Annie perform this song live since reading reviews of the 'Lily's' Concert so were just delighted that she chose to do so and as the song built towards its conclusion, she and the band just shined.
Annie introduced "In My Room" as a 60's style song. Another terrific new song, it has elements from the 60's and 70's but also shares a style with Renaissance's music during the Camera Camera and Time-Line era. It is one that we really enjoyed and certainly hope Annie will include in a future album.
A lovely improvisation session followed where Annie sang the chorus of the song "Dream" by herself and then decided that the band should join in and do this song to avoid doing the same old 'boring' thing. Dave Biglin led Annie and the band through the song and it was just terrific. This is surely a rare performance but one we hope Annie will do again sometime so others can enjoy it too.
After the applause to "Dream" died out, someone from the audience shouted "Carpet Of The Sun" and the band immediately began the introduction to this classic Renaissance song. The performance by Annie and the band was flawless in every way and Rave Tesar's work on the piano really brought out the Renaissance sound. A standing ovation followed and Annie asked everyone to remain standing for the next song to dance along with her.
"What He Seeks" was played next and it was just super. Annie's bare feet and dancing perfectly accompanied the song and the audience went wild in response with everyone remaining standing with deafening applause when the song concluded. The band left the stage but returned for the first of what would be two encores.
The first encore was "Ocean Gypsy" which like the other songs was perfomed just flawlessly. Annie's band has worked out how to use their instruments to achieve the Renaissance sound despite the absence of a bass and occasionally a guitar. The backing vocals throughout the set were terrific as well.
After another long standing ovation, Rave and Annie returned to the stage to perform the song "A New Life" which again demonstrated Annie's tremendous vocal power. It was a lovely performance.
This was an absolutely super concert and it was a packed house. The TLA is a great venue because it enables the audience to achieve a level of intimacy with the performers and as such is perfectly suited for Annie Haslam and her band. There is also ample parking and many good places to eat nearby; there are lots of record/CD stores in the area and the local culture late at night is absolutely remarkable. It's one of Annie's favourite venues so make sure to catch her next show there if you didn't catch this one.
Annie's next live performance is at The Bottom Line in New York 21 June. Be sure to catch her on this tour if at all possible.