So for me, it was two nights, two concerts in a row at the Boulton Center in Bay Shore. As soon as I saw that Renaissance was coming to Long Island, I picked up some tickets right away. They're a band I've always liked a lot, but never seen live before. (Mind you, as is the case with so many iconic '70s bands, when I say "Renaissance", I mean lead singer Annie Haslam singing a bunch of Renaissance music with a band of more-or-less newbies. I can't even say she's the only original member, because technically, she didn't even join until the band's third album.)
Now after seeing Leslie West last night, I was a little worried about what Haslam had left in the tank. I had heard rumors twenty years ago that she had blown her voice out with hard living. But as she has still continued to earn a living as a musician for most of the years since then (although she's also become known for her paintings), I figured that must have been an exaggeration.
As it turns out, I'm really glad I bought the tickets.
My back was feeling much better today. (I must have slept it back into the right position). I spent a fairly quiet day at home, watching some TV, listening to some music, and catching up on some proofreading work. Denise, who abhors loud rock groups like Mountain, but who also isn't usually that big on progressive rock, was coming with me tonight. It's kind of weird -- she loves Renaissance, and has seen them live several times before. But the only other progressive rock bands she has any affection for are Jethro Tull (who she's seen with me several times now) and The Who (to the extent you consider them to be progressive rock). Even a band like Yes she has no interest in. So she and I were going together tonight, and were meeting our friend Rich the drummer as well.
We met Rich for an excellent pre-show dinner at the Chinese restaurant down the block, and were in our seats by 6:45pm (15 minutes prior to showtime). We had excellent third row seats for this show, because I jumped on the tickets right away when they went on sail.
At 7pm, the usual opening announcements occurred, and a few moments later, the band took the stage.
A few points of interest: 1. Renaissance played as a 6-piece tonight - Haslam, a (mostly acoustic) guitarist, a bass player, two keyboard players, and a drummer; 2. Frank Pagano, the aforementioned drummer, must have been terrified of assassination, because they had him and his drum kit safely hidden behind a (probably bulletproof) plexiglass wall; and 3. The current tour is listed as the "Day of the Dreamer Tour", which is weird, because Day of the Dreamer is a 2000 live album, but whatever.
Anyway, the band came out, and went right into "Prologue". Here's a little-known fact. I actually wrote the lyrics for that song, but do they ever give me credit for it? No! Now Annie seemed a little stern during most of this number, which concerned me, because I wondered if that's how she'd be for the whole night. It must have been just a need for concentration as she warmed up, though, because as soon as the song was ever, it became apparent that she has kind of a silly, and delightfully girlish (she's 71 years old) personality. She was wearing an ankle-length silk-looking dress, that apparently bore the design from one of her paintings. There was a black corset thingy on top, and early on, she told us all that although we couldn't see it, underneath the corset thingy, the top of her dress bore a picture of a little space-alien boy (who she proceeded to talk to for the rest of the night).
I breathed a sigh of relief when I heard "Prologue", because although they had her voice just a little low in the mix for this song - the guitarist's voice drowned her out a little - I could hear enough to be sure that she still had plenty of voice left. And as the night wore on, it became apparent that although her voice tends to wander a bit in her lower register, when she starts reaching for those ridiculous high notes of hers, it's all aces.
Overall, the band played for a solid two hours. Their songs tend to be a little long, so this only encompassed an 11-song setlist (including the encore), but I can't say they cheated the audience in any way. My only minor complaint of the night (and it really is a minor one) is that after the first few songs, they tended to play a lot of relatively obscure material at the expense of some of their most popular songs. So at one point, when someone in the audience shouted out "Play Mother Russia!", Haslam kind of snapped at him, "Oh, sod off!" even though they were including it in their setlist as recently as this past September. She later explained that sometimes the band needs to give certain songs a rest, and then come back to them on a later tour. (Which I get, from the artist's perspective. But from the audience's perspective, it's more like, "Hey, but I'm here tonight!") In any event, they didn't play anything at all from Turn of the Cards, one of their most popular albums. On the other hand, pretty much everything they did play was delightful, including a song called "Symphony of Light", about Leonardo da Vinci, and "Renaissance Man", a song written in honor of the late Renaissance guitarist Michael Dunford. Still, I wouldn't have minded hearing some favorites like "Mother Russia", "Ashes Are Burning" and "Black Flame".
Anyway, this was one show that was well worth the ticket price. My year of live music is now winding down -- I only have two planned live shows left between now and the end of the year. One is a local act, and the other a national classic rocker. So I'll tell you about them after I've seen them.
For the setlist for tonight's show, go to www.playmotherrussiayouratbastards.com.