Annie Haslam's Brazilian Tour

Review by: Russ Elliot

©1997. Exclusive To Northern Lights
Part One

21 March 1997, Rio De Janeiro. Annie Haslam and David ("Squiggy") Biglin completed a second outstanding performance at The Scala here last night in front of a huge crowd of loyal and extremely dedicated Brazilian fans. Biglin is playing piano, synthesiser and acoustic guitar on this tour and with assistance from Denny Bridges at the console is "the" band.

Earlier this week, the team played in São Paulo at the Bourbon Street club to a packed house as well. Both performances began an hour later than scheduled to permit queues of 100 or more late-arriving fans to be accommodated. It is estimated that the São Paulo concert drew 450 people, with at least 100 standing. The Rio show last evening drew approximately 1000.

Annie's shows have been publicised in the local press, on radio and a TV spot aired on Brazil's Globo TV. The spot featured a brief interview with Annie conducted on Rio's Copacabana Beach and a portion of "Carpet of the Sun" where she was accompanied by her sound engineer, Denny Bridges, on guitar. The tour's organisers, Luiz Drummond, Carlos Edmar and Claudio Fonzi also appeared briefly.

At both Bourbon Street and The Scala, Annie and Squiggy played a set that included some of Brazil's most loved Renaissance classics, material from Annie's previously released solo albums and her new songs, "Sometimes," "Seashell Eyes" and "Summon The Angels." A new song entitled "Brazilian Skies" was performed for the first time at Bourbon Street and again last night to wild acclaim. Squiggy pre-recorded backing tracks for six songs which added additional colour to the acoustic format.

Brazilian fans are far from shy about singing along and when the shows opened with "Carpet Of The Sun," the warmth and dedication of the fans was evident. The mood grew through the set list and by the time "Let It Grow" was performed, everyone in the audience was singing along.

The acoustic arrangement of "Moonlight Shadow" worked well with just Annie and Squiggy's piano as did "Blessing In Disguise." The backing tracks on "After The Oceans Are Gone" and "Summon The Angels" älso worked very well. "Turn Of The Century" brought the house down in both venues with Annie and Squiggy on piano. The fans all joined in when "Spare Some Love" and "Öcean Gypsy" were played in the encores.

Here is the set list:


Fans were asking for more songs and last night Annie sang the first verse of "Ashes Are Burning" as a teaser in between the second and third encore and said she hoped to return with her full band in the future to play the entire song. Digital recordings of the tour are being made for a forthcoming live album. Initial reactions from the Brazilian fans were very positive when Annie announced this at The Scala last night.

Annie hopes to work with local charity to help Brazilian children-in-need and several preliminary visits were made during the first week of this tour to explore what kinds of things can be done.

The final two shows of this tour will be held at the acoustic shell of the Museu Imperial de Petrópolis an hour outside of Rio tonight and tomorrow night.

Annie has remarked many times during the past week how much she likes Brazil, the food, the warmth of the people, and the reception she, Squiggy and Denny have received.

Part Two

24 March 1997, Rio De Janeiro. Petrópolis is a mountain resort community about an hour north of Rio De Janeiro. At an altitude of approximately 3000 ft above sea level with lush forests, crystal clear streams and breath-taking landscapes, it is a terrific spot for people that work in Rio during the week to get away each weekend and for the third and fourth concerts in Annie Haslam's Brazilian tour. Here, Annie Haslam and David "Squiggy" Biglin played two shows for sell-out crowds of over 300 loyal fans in the intimate acoustic shell at the Museu Imperial de Petrópolis, on 21 and 22 March 1997. All of the shell's seats, centre aisle and doorways were occupied. Many had also attended the Rio De Janeiro show at The Scala on 20 March, and some attended both shows in Petrópolis as well.

Despite the lack of domestic releases of their most recent material, it is clearly evident that Annie Haslam and Renaissance are very big in Brazil. The artists hope to arrange for (Brazilian) domestic release of their material, currently offered here only as imports, in the future. The Brazilian people are very passionate about their music and their love for Annie Haslam and Renaissance has been quite evident all week from both media and fans alike.

The incessant flashes from fans' cameras during the shows illustrated their desire to capture moments anxiously awaited since Annie came to Brazil to promote Azure d'Or in 1979 with Michael Dunford; plans then for a subsequent Renaissance tour were abandoned when the band's lineup changed. The two shows at the Petrópolis venue concluded the very first Brazilian concert tour by Annie Haslam or any member of Renaissance.

The media was well represented with reporters coming from as far as São Paulo and Rio De Janeiro to cover the show. Annie granted a final interview last night.

The acoustics were again expertly engineered by soundman Denny Bridges, who has worked with Annie Haslam since the 1980s. Digital recording for a forthcoming live CD took place at both performances. The acoustics in the shell were perhaps the best of the tour, however the venue was not designed for electronic amplification making the engineering task that much more difficult. However, the result was excellent on all counts and the fans showed their appreciation after each and every song. Lighting was much more subtle than the earlier two performances on this tour.

The audience patiently awaited the artists' arrival for over an hour each evening and without electric fans to circulate the air on the first night, it became quite hot in the venue before the performance and sweltering by the end. It was far cooler the second night which, along with a very warm reception from a very cooperative audience, led to what was perhaps the best show of the tour.

Here is the set list:


Note: Songs with the asterisk (*) were accompanied by backing tracks previously recorded specifically for the Brazilian tour by David Biglin.

The audience sang along with the artists in many of the songs as in the prior two shows, and began with "Carpet Of The Sun." As in Rio and São Paulo, the backing tracks worked well and the songs performed purely acoustically also sounded great. Annie and Squiggy's new songs worked well and were received exceptionally by folks that had never heard them before.

"The Young Prince and Princess" from Scheherazade was very warmly received with Biglin's fantastic introduction played in piano-mode on the synthesizer. The ear-shattering applause began as soon as he started playing and the audience went wild with excitement when Annie finished singing the song.

"Let It Grow" is a very big song in Brazil, perhaps bigger here than any other place in the world. Only a few notes of the intro were necessary to get the whole audience to join in with lyrics.

Over the past week, the two tracks "Summon The Angels" (Biglin/Haslam) and "Sometimes" (McKinney) got better with the final performance in Petrópolis being the best of the lot. The crowd loved the new songs and were very excited with the prospect of a live CD to commemorate the tour and make these stunning new songs available for enjoyment at home.

"Brazilian Skies" (Biglin/Haslam) has also developed well during the concerts, rehearsals and soundchecks. Received extremely well by audiences throughout the tour not only as a commemoration to their country but also to the tour's organisers, Luiz Drummond, Carlos Edmar and Claudio Fonzi, the final performance at Petrópolis demonstrated the artists' readiness to go into the studio to record the song with the full band. "Brazilian Skies" has a catchy melody, a real Brazilian feel, and sensitive lyrics that truly touch the heart.

The audience sang along with "Northern Lights," "Spare Some Love" and "Ocean Gypsy." The last two tracks are very big in Brazil and the warmth generated by the audience accompanyment in the acoustic shell was just incredible. Annie treated the fans to a small teaser with the first verses from "Ashes Are Burning" and "At The Harbour" during the encore at the last show; she said that she would like to return to Brazil with her full band in the future.

As in São Paulo, after the final Petrópolis show, Annie signed autographs and took pictures with her Brazilian fans, many of whom brought stacks of Renaissance/Annie Haslam vinyl albums and/or CD liners to be inscribed. One fan even brought printouts of reviews, scanned photos and collages from the Northern Lights web site for Annie to autograph.

It's clear, reflecting on this brief four-show tour, that the Brazilian people don't just like Annie Haslam and Renaissance; they truly adore her voice and love her music. The fans warmth and love are surely a powerful magnet that will draw Annie and her band back to Brazil for another tour sometime soon.

Annie has continued to work with Brazilian children-in-need during her stay in Brazil and made some initial contacts with fans and firms that are interested in working with her to help improve the children's lives.

Return to Northern Lights Home Page