Thursday, July 1, 2010

Back from 5 Days in Chicago..Renaissance Concert

I spent most of the time there in Chicago the past 5 days, living life and getting to know my 2 young nieces and of course my brother and sister in law. That was for the most part, all well and good. Perhaps I will elaborate more about that here or in another blog.

I also ventured down to Chicago to finally see Renaissance and Annie Haslam perform. I am just guessing here, but I think it was close 14 if not close to 15 years ago when I 1st heard Annie sing the Yes song "Turn of the Century" and I was blown away by her voice (and that song of course!). I then purchased a solo album of hers Still Life which I don't think was the next best thing to pickup, but so be it. Soon after I found Renaissance.

Moving along, I always wanted to see her sing live and even meet her. But it was around 2001 or 2002 I remember hearing she was doing more artwork and not singing so much. That status, from memory, remained until maybe 2 years ago or a little less. I always hoped Nearfest or some other festival would get them with her, or even a tour that would hopefully come to Minnesota.

Well not Minnesota, but Chicago was close enough, I couldn't pass up the chance to see them perform.

So it was last night. Like some other almost Murphy's fucking law situations on trips (LTE and Jordan Rudess keyboard breaking, ProgPower, Enchant's new cds at Nearfest), when I got to the Park West after 6:30pm, there still was a line (the doors were supposed to open at 6:30pm). I then found out Renaissance's van broke down on the way from the airport.

So I'm a little paranoid, especially after getting inside and noticing Steve Hackett hit the stage 1st. Now mind you, I am a fan of his solo work and Genesis of course, but I have seen Steve 3 previous times (and wouldn't be making a priority to travel to see necessarily given those facts). So I was getting a little more worried at that point.

Thankfully due to time constraints and a curfew, Steve announced that the order of bands would be reversed than normal and Renaissance would be going on after his band, given they only arrived to the club 5 minutes before his band took the stage.

Hackett's set was actually maybe a bit more enjoyable than I expected. And it wasn't so extensive that it didn't eat up some of Renaissance's time on stage like I feared. The set from what I recall.

Every Day
New Song
Ace of Wands
New Song
Spectral Mornings
Los Endos
Chicago Blues song?

Firth of Fifth

I have a feeling some of the set lists that are published here show the missing songs/song titles. I know his set list was altered a bit, and he didn't do "Horizons" which I would have liked to have seen, but so be it.


So then I moved up to about 5 or 5 rows/tables in front of the stage (thanks to a nice fella who I met there with a Kevin Gilbert Shaming shirt on, giving me his seat since he didn't desire to stay for Renaissance). And Renaissance took the stage.

Set list:
Carpet of the Sun
Midas Man
Running Hard
The Mystic and the Muse
Things I Don't Understand
Mother Russia

Ashes Are Burning


The performance was definitely as good or probably better than I expected. Annie was good to perform again finally when her voice allows now. She was going WAYYY UP at times. Some of those falsettos she pulled off were very operatic and powerful. The new piece "The Mystic and the Muse" which comes from their brand new 3-track ep, really shows the shape she is in again vocally. I honestly do not recall more than 1 or perhaps 2 moments where I was even the tiny bit suspicious if she was off. Frankly, I was almost worried she might be exceeding her limits (see the difference that Ray Alder of Fates Warning has to go through now live). So all in all, it was rather special and lived up to my hopes/dreams of seeing her sing.

The rest of the band definitely pulled all that great stuff off as well. Michael Dunford, other longtime member along with Annie, was modest but still great to see bang out the old tunes, as well co-write the new piece they did. Even with the limited/selective use of guitar, their music includes or even features.

Tom Brislin pulled off many of the classic stuff. The intricate piano melodies. Running Hard and Ashes Are Burning namely. Great to see him help out (and now record) with another classic prog band. He's played live with Yes and Camel among others, and his own original group Spiraling.

Rave Tesar the other keyboardist currently with them. He took many of those classic John Tout leads. I guess he's been playing with Dunford for almost 20 years or something. You can tell he knows this stuff well.

David J. Keyes the bassist who played a rather big role given how much their music uses a lead bass that John Camp got somewhat known for. They remind me in a way of Weather Report, or even take bass lines from bands like The Who, Yes or even Rush. Really it's just a tuned-down guitar not using chords. He was faithful and upfront enough for their work.

Frank Pagano definitely fit will with the band and pulled off their stripped down, tribal at-times drum parts.

The set list: while they did as expected, do a lot of the classic-period songs. Having waited so many years, I still couldn't avoid hoping they might play some of my favorites. Carpet of the Sun and Running Hard are certainly up there. But a song like "A Trip to the Fair," "Song of Scheherazade" or even "A Song For All Seasons" certainly would have made the evening even more memorable. But I really don't feel much if any issue with it. The new song they did was nice, and Ashes Are Burning is a great epic closing/encore track. Just as it is on their much praised live double-disc Live at Carnegie Hall which actually was recorded in 3 nights, the last being exactly 1 year before I was born in fact in 1975.


Now on to the difficult part. I have always loved her voice, and came to learn about her as a person. She supported many thoughtful ideas, including animal rights? or something involving helping animals, namely dogs. I signed up to "The Annie Haslam Appreciation Society" in 2000 I think it was. 1 year she even sent me an autographed photo I think.

I have always wanted to see her perform and MEET Annie Haslam. Some rather unusual images or dreams (fantasies) of mine crossed my mind. Sort of wanting to pour out my heart to her (spill my guts) about how her voice and the band made think of when I was a little kid, going to music class. Living in the 70's, the ole hippie era, and the romantic, even innocent element to it. I often listen to their music and get terribly sad or just feel like it is the 1970's, I'm at times a little boy and she sings at a concert for me that I'm with either a class or my parents. And even sings me a lullaby to sleep.

And other times, more recently, I wish and almost feel like I was in my early 20's in the mid 1970's. Annie totally seduces and hypnotizes me and my desire for her. I'm not meaning in a purely sexual way. That line in "I Think of You" "I love you, like a friend" actually almost fits. But it's still romantic in some ways. She's just so kind- heart-ed, gentle, soft, warm, thoughtful. Her voice mesmerizes me like no other. Especially at the time I got into them, where 97% or more of the music I listened to (prog, prog metal, classic rock, etc) was from all-male musicians. She totally stood out, and gave me that female to admire and even lust after.

Even if the music was decades old and she was much older then. It didn't matter to me and in some ways, my naive self. I even registered a screen name online "Mr.AnnieHaslam" after seeing 1 for Dream Theater's guitarist "Ms.Petrucci"

It wasn't fair how so many girls got to drool over so many male musicians, and I didn't have a girlfriend of course, nor even a female musician to do the same with. But Annie was that for me.

So all that in mind (and at least in recent years, the ability to find female musicians to admire/lust after has increased at least. My taste expanding helps I think), getting to finally meet her ended up a little too rushed and compartmentalized. She wasn't exactly rude, but I was at the end of the line and the band had had some hurdles to get by to even be there last night. But on the surface, I got to mention 1 or 2 things to her, but not everything I would have liked.

I even bought 1 of her not exactly cheap pieces of art, mostly with the hope that she would notice or even remember me a bit more. I mean part of it was to just SUPPORT HER and even buying some other merch as well for her and the band. They have a new full-length disc in the works for 2011. And with the work on the new ep, I am rather optimistic and excited to hear it. But with that digression, I really hoped she might make an impression on me, and vice-versa in some ways. Pretty much how in Chicago in 2006 with Jimmy Gnecco (and ever since), and also especially with Steve Hogarth of Marillion in 2004.

Both of those concerts in Chicago were a rather big deal to me. Ours was a short time thing of course, but it was special finally meeting Jimmy. And the experiences since have only added to that. And Steve Hogarth, I mean for one, HE KISSED ME on my forehead when I confessed to him about how important Brave was to me. It was, and always will be something I'll never forget. It was like I stood out somehow; like what he made, or what his muse/art created made a significant difference in someone's life.

Now both of those experiences were more extensive, although not incredibly long. They were CASUAL and IN-PERSON ONE-ON-ONE. Outside too. The table the band were sitting at wasn't really like that.

But after wards, my thoughts went to celebrity and encountering fans in person. Maybe had I met her at Nearfest when she was showing and selling her art, very CASUALLY, I might not have come away so lacking what I hoped for. It was late last night. Like 11:40 or something.

But it made me think about the in-person, before or after concert meets should be brief with most musicians. I thought about Ian Anderson, lol. He's totally funny and great on stage, but he won't give you the time of day (night) after wards. Neil Peart of Rush is sort of like that I guess too.

But then I have been fortunate to spend pretty extensive non-show time hanging with some great, albeit somewhat accessible musicians/people. Doug Pinnick of King's X and most of the Fair to Midland guys come to mind among dozens and dozens of others.

So what is Annie's approach? Was she more or less fan-friendly since the 70's? (or even in the 70's?). Just because she comes across incredibly thoughtful and kind in her music and in public forums, doesn't mean she isn't very private. And so I did fear I might come across potentially as creepy, even asking for a hug. St.Vincent was nice enough, but maybe the fact she's younger and newer, and not into the whole celebrity thing.

I dunno. I just know 13-15 years of dreaming came true last night, but I also know part of me wishes I had never wished for the brief encounter with my favorite female singer to be more than a quick thanks for the music, I'd love to see you again sometime, instead of bonding or spilling my guts confessional that could ultimately give the exact opposite reaction to what I'd ever want to leave on her about me.

And ya know, I'm hardly the 1st guy to admire or have a thing for her, given some of the accounts I've read about young men holding candles for her when the band were at their peak. So maybe asking to shake her hand was even too forward, although she ultimately did shake my hand. But it was still a little awkward and unclear if it was her being funny or sort of out of tired obligation. I have no clue.

So, after babbling about what has crossed my mind after this, and over-analyzing it to death as I tend to do. I can still hope that they will tour again soon, probably in 2011, and even come to Minneapolis. And perhaps have a 2nd chance to make a 1st impression..or make a new impression on her again soon.

But in the mean time, I am still very thankful I got to see them finally and meet her however unclear the overall experience was in that. And perhaps I'll be able to be more careful with meeting these musicians I admire. Imogen Heap perhaps 1 day certainly comes to mind. And even my next encounter seeing Warpaint, although at least those girls HUGGED ME. So, go figure why I might hope Annie might even consider shaking my hand. But women are and probably always will be far too confusing to understand their approach to physical touching. Some love it, or are touchy-feely, but others are not crazy for it, especially from potentially creepy fans in this case. But how am I supposed to know? I'm not sadly =\