Renaissance Touring 2016
Back to Blighty: homecoming triumph of the brightly burning storytellers of yore.
Michael Dunford’s passing in 2012 might have broken the last line linking this ensemble to British soil yet, since their “big dream was to bring the band back to England” – as Annie Haslam, a long time Pennsylvania dweller, explains here – the singer pursued it to the end for almost three years, and “Live At The Union Chapel” is a document of RENAISSANCE’s return to the fold. They chose a very special place to lay it down, London’s Union Chapel holding atmosphere so fitting for the group who not only utilize colored lighting to a majestic effect but also match their outfits with the venue’s wood, so there’s a harmony in motion.
Still, the sonic picture of it all is rather different from what aficionados of classic line-up got used to – the sound is modern – and the same can be said of visual layout where two keyboard players flank the stage. Rave Tesar and Tom Brislin wouldn’t try and reproduce retro passages: the sextet move along with the times, while the former is adding to the classical feel of the proceedings by conducting the ensemble, which is essential for sophisticated interplay on the crystalline “Symphony Of Light,” and the latter theatrically delivers his spaced-out solo on “Ashes Are Burning” whose jazzy improvisation has Haslam dance with a tambourine in her hand and go in trance.
It’s a transfixing sight, indeed, when Annie embodies the “I became a songbird” line in “Grandine Il Vento” – another latter-day creation dissolving into ether on a triumphant note – as, despite the Haslam’s slightly matronly look, her voice is young and her gesticulation remains the same as it was four decades earlier. That’s why “Carpets Of The Sun” evokes bliss on the musicians’ faces, yet today RENAISSANCE – a pity – may be seen as the singer and the faceless rest, even though guitarist Mark Lambert, her vocal foil on the increasingly cinematic “Prologue,” played with the band in the late ’80s, on the cusp of their break-up. But it’s a collective magic that fills “Ocean Gypsy” and make Annie close her eyes and sail into a reverie, and everybody’s effort is what – albeit “Mother Russia” seems to be lacking in drama now – brings the audience to standing ovation.
A testament to the ensemble remaining a progressive force, this DVD – and a companion digital album – is a precious thing, as are RENAISSANCE themselves