Saturday, April 09, 2016

Renaissance - Live at The Union Chapel 2015, Now Available on DVD and Audio Download, "Ashes" Still Hot Four Decades On



Photo courtesy of Renaissance

Forty years ago, I was privileged to meet the members of Renaissance when they visited the studios of WRHY-Starview for an interview prior to their show that night at Franklin & Marshall College. They have probably long forgotten that media stop, among the many they must have made back then, but their trip up the mountain to our station building in central Pennsylvania is indelibly etched in my mind. As the evening DJ it was my pleasure to sit in and take part in that interview.

Over the years, Renaissance has weathered many changes; changes in audience (welcome next generation), the record industry (hello Kickstarter), and changes in personnel (rest in peace Michael Dunford). Over the last decade, Annie Haslam (with keyboardist Rave Tesar) reassembled Renaissance with original member Michael Dunford on guitar. Together they did a successful tour that included complete performances of two of their most beloved albums, producing a double live CD and DVD recorded at the Keswick Theater in Glenside, PA. They also went into the studio and recorded an album of all new original compositions, Grandine il Vento. Following Dunford's sudden death, they decided to carry on and added Ryche Chlanda on guitar and vocals.

I have seen them many times over the years and they have always been nothing short of brilliant. Annie Haslam is an amazing singer. Her voice has a five octave range and a true and clear tone. Incredibly, her voice actually seems to get stronger and stronger during the course of a performance.

Renaissance has just released a new album, Live at The Union Chapel, recorded last year in London. The price for this package at the Renaissance website is a steal; $14 buys you the DVD which includes a digital download of the complete 100 minute concert. Audio and video quality is superb, and the setlist will surely please any Renaissance fan. It even includes material from that newest studio album.

Beyond the compositions, which embody the best aspects of progressive rock from the seventies, the soul of Renaissance is the unique voice of Annie Haslam combined with the keyboard artistry (mostly piano) of Jon Tout (then) and Rave Tesar (now). The only video released so far from this DVD is their opening track, "Prologue". Watch and listen as this performance reminds you of everything that you ever loved about this band. The wordless vocal is beautifully tuneful and will take you back to that first Renaissance album of the same name, which featured Haslam and company. Tesar plays the piano part, and then some, and it seems so effortless.

Watch "Prologue"



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Setlist: (Click each song title to hear audio track)
1. Prologue 07:26
2. Carpet of the Sun 03:37
3. Ocean Gypsy 07:36
4. Running Hard 09:39
5. Grandine il Vento 06:54
6. Symphony of Light 12:53
7. Northern Lights 04:16
8. The Mystic and the Muse 07:57
9. Mother Russia 10:07
10. Ashes are Burning 18:19

The show ends (as many great Renaissance shows have) with "Ashes Are Burning". I have seen and heard many powerful performances of "Ashes" over the years, but none are better than what they did at Union Chapel. Toward the end when Annie's voice goes high, and then higher than high, just listening to the audio I could see the mirror ball they used to use at this point in the show. This version also features some incredible keyboards by Tesar, including a mind-blowing synth solo. Listening to this track blew me away.

Watch "Ashes Are Burning" performed at another stop on the same UK tour (Not from DVD).

Youtube user Pancentricism posted this version of "Renaissance playing their encore 'Ashes Are Burning' at the Maltings in Farnham on the 18th April 2015 during their recent European tour. Huge thanks to Annie Haslem for allowing me to post this. The line up is Annie Haslem, Rave Tesar, Tom Brislin, Frank Pagano, Leo Traversa and Mark Lambert."


Photo courtesy of Annie Haslam

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