A 21ST CENTURY RENAISSANCE…FOR RENAISSANCE

Renaissance's Michael Dunford and Annie Haslam circa their 1970's heyday.

Renaissance’s Michael Dunford and Annie Haslam circa their 1970’s heyday.

The “reunion tour.”

The term can strike fear in the minds of true fans of bands whose best days are long since past.

Sometimes, reunion tours work. The bands still have the chops, and the songs take fans back to their youth and remind them of why they followed the band in the first place. It can even rejuvenate faded careers.

But sometimes, it can be a miserably embarrassing last gasp for a group of old musicians who are trying to hang on to glory days that simply can’t be conjured up, no matter how good they used to be. It can even ruin what’s left of a good thing.

For the folk-classical-prog-rock band Renaissance, whose heyday coincided with the 70’s heyday of FM radio, and whose original lineup included members of the famed Yardbirds, this “reunion tour” day of reckoning has arrived.

Annie Haslam hits just the right note in her early days with Renaissance.

Annie Haslam hits just the right note in her early days with Renaissance.

Two of the band’s earliest members, lead singer Annie Haslam and guitarist/songwriter Michael Dunford, have decided to regroup and take their almost 30 year-old music out on the road for a nine-city tour of theaters, all to try and recapture the magic of the days when “Carpet Of The Sun” and “Northern Lights” were regular staples on the FM dial, and performed on Friday night episodes of “Midnight Special” (who remembers that age old live music TV gem?).

Deciding to do their shows in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic where legendary FM stations like WHFS in Bethesda, WMMR in Philly and WNEW in New York played them endlessly and helped them make their name, “Renassiance 2009” gets underway at the Rams Head Live in Annapolis on October 6th, and makes a stop at the Birchmere in Del Mar on October 12th.

Can they truly harness the magic of yesteryear with this 40th anniversary revisit? Guitarist Dunford thinks they are off to a very good start. “We’re coming up to the end of the first week of rehearsals and it’s going brilliantly,” Dunford told me this week from a hotel near the band’s rehearsal studio. “I must admit, it’s much better than expected. And judging by what we’re seeing on Facebook and myspace, the word’s really getting around, which is really nice.”

Check out the seventies British rocker and his social networking acumen.

After it’s best successes in the 70’s, Camera Camera was the band’s final album to chart in the US, where it reached a paltry #196 in late 1981. There were a few brief Renaissance machinations including an acoustic version of the band in the mid 80’s, a partial reformation in 1998, and a short full band tour in 2001, but there hasn’t really been a real Renaissance out there since then.

Renaissance’s Annie Haslam thanks the crowd during her 2005 solo tour with jazz pianist David Sancious.

Renaissance’s Annie Haslam thanks the crowd during her 2005 solo tour with jazz pianist David Sancious.

So why do this now, when you run the risk of not being able to recapture the right sound and feel and possibly alienating whatever fan base they have left?

“Annie and I have always been in touch, we’ve spoken at various stages about ‘should we get Renassiance together,’’ says Dunford, “and it didn’t seem appropriate. I called Annie about year ago, and said hey look, you know, let’s see what we can do. She said she’d be OK with that, as long as we can get our former management company involved (led by the legendary music impresario John Scher) and they seemed responsive, so they did a bit of research, and said yeah, OK, let’s go for it. I think the timing now is right.”

Haslam and Dunford contacted some players that backed them on their brief 2001 tour in Japan, those guys contacted some players they knew who they thought would fit in nicely with the current lineup, and “Renaissance 2009” was born. According to Dunford, “it’s just going great.”

And what are they really trying to accomplish with this tour?

“What we’re trying to do is simply play some of the most popular songs that we did,” Dunford continues. “Hopefully the audiences are out there, and they like what we’re doing. It’ll obviously be a slightly different interpretation because there are some different players, but we’ll mostly be sticking to the original arrangements. And hopefully, the fans of the band will flock to see us.”

For a band trying to see if the ashes of a career from way back in the day are still burning, Renaissance has to be given credit for being gutsy enough to give it a shot.

Writer’s note: Michael Hunford passed away about three years after I interviewed him for this piece. For more, click here.

Advertisements

25 Responses to “A 21ST CENTURY RENAISSANCE…FOR RENAISSANCE”

  1. I look forward to the aftermath of the tour…You Tube, CD, DVD etc but I regret the tour appears to be staying in the Northeast.
    There is (or was) a strong core here in South Florida as well.

  2. Did either Michael or Annie attempt to contact John Tout, Jon Camp,
    Terry Sullivan, or Betty Newsinger? Now that would have been a concert for the ages!

    • Listen ooo ah oo do you wanna know a secret Says:

      Richard my friend yes they was asked. The answere unfortunatly the answer was NO. Can you say there is trouble in the Kingdom or maybe Queendom? Seems like there might be. The Renaissance that we knew and loved is no longer. The castle walls came crumbling down like Humpty Dumpty. And we all know what happened to poor Humpty don’t we? This tour is just an illusion of the past and not a reallity Without John Tout ,Terry Sullivan and even Jon Camp maybe they should named themselves Illusions. Sorry about that The original original Renaissance changed their name to Illusion to allow the 70’s incarnation to live life in the 70’s only to let egos run it in the ground in the 80’s

  3. Umm….make that WHFS in Bethesda, MD. Atop the Triangle Towers building and across the street from the Psychedelly. At least the Tastee Diner is stil around.

    • P.S. David Sancious is an amazing musician on guitar as well as keys and his mid 70s post Springsteen fusion LPs have some smoking guitarwork.

    • WHFS no more Says:

      Chris sorry to say that as of about 4 years ago WHFS in Bethesda was sold to a spanish broadcasting company and took over HSF’s 99.1 spot on the dial. However the call letters were transfered to another station in Baltimore and is now a talk radio station. FM radio blows chunks. Now even thats gone. Go figure

  4. Renaissance was/is an assembly of the most phenomenally talented musicians that I have ever heard. I was fortunate enough to have seen them live “back in the day” and look forward to seeing them again this Fall.
    Songs such as “Can You Understand”, “Ashes Are Burning” and “Ocean Gypsy” immediately transport me back to the days of youth but more importantly these incredibly well structured songs have withstood the test of time and I cannot wait to hear them resurrected once again.

  5. I am of the understanding that if these shows do well others might be considered across the nation and possibly the pond…

  6. I too, am looking forward to this tour! I was fortunate to see them back in 1979 in Beaumont, Texas when they opened up for Peter Frampton. The group made one hell of an impact on me, and I was forever hooked! I have seen Annie Haslam numerous times in the Philadelphia area in the past 15 years, and her voice just blows me away! So beautiful! I am flying up from Houston to see the first show in Annapolis and am totally stoked about this tour! I cannot wait! I am hoping that this tour is a great success and the band decides to carry on! And too, I am hoping the shows are recorded for possible CD and DVD releases.

  7. They just SOLD OUT! a 1300 seat concert venue, The Keswick Theatre in Pennsylvania.

    The past is indeed still turning!

    “Clear your mind maybe you will find
    That the past is still turning
    Circles sway echo yesterday
    Ashes burning, ashes burning…”

  8. Just bought my ticket for the show in Albany NY at the Egg. They are playing in the smaller theater so it should be quite something to hear them in this setting. I’m a bit too young to have witnessed them back in the day, but their music has always been very enjoyable to listen to. I have to admit, I never thought in a million years that I would be able to see this group. Amazing!

  9. Alan Goodman Says:

    Flying in from Chicago, IL for last show , Alantic City , NJ. Bought tickets
    for my cousin and her husband. This will be my first RENAISSANCE con-
    cert but have enjoyed there music since 1989. Bought CD solo Annie Haslam . Maybe lucky enough to get a autograph from Annie.

  10. Just got home from the Philly show. Absolutely fantastic. the band was great, and Annie can still get hose high notes!

  11. Being a devoted fan of Renaissance since the early 70’s I was truly looking forward to this concert at the Keswick Theater; I was not disappointed. Annie’s voice was near perfection as was Michael’s guitar play. From Prologue to Ashes are Burning the band amazingly brought back the original sounds of Renaissance as well as a few new twists to two of the numbers. My sincere congratulations to the band for a successful come back.

  12. Ed Arnold Says:

    Incredible performance from Renaissance 2009 last night in Glenside, PA!
    Annie Haslam was in “spot-on perfect” voice through the entire evening! She hasn’t lost a thing! Michael Dunford played and sang expertly and seemed about as happy as could be up in front of the sold out Keswick Theater crowd. Tom Brislin was a nice addition to the touring group and added quite a bit to the concert in his own write. I hope this band tours again soon! Bravo! More more more!

  13. j webster Says:

    When, or will Renaissance be doing a UK reunion tour? I’m sure a lot of us Brits are waiting for it to happen

  14. Tony Benfante Says:

    Saw Renaissance at the German House in Rochester. Blown away! Only dissapointment was that no part of Sheherazade (the song) was played, but I am certainly not complaining. I understand they cannot play everything. Annie still has an amazing voice. Well deserved standing O.

  15. Mike Duns Says:

    I am so disappointed that Jon Camp, John Tout and Terry Sullivan are not part of the tour. They were a distinguishing part of the group. Sort out the difficulties and get together to recapture the real Renaissance.

  16. I believe that Mr. Tout wasn’t healthy enough to consider touring after his recent heart attack. Personally I would just appreciate any incarnation of this glorious music. Last year I saw Roger Waters (solo) do “The Dark Side of The Moon” in concert and it was just phenomenal. I went out of appreciation for the music. Sometimes all the ducks cannot be aligned for a tour…

  17. Disappointing that the reformed group only toured the US northeast. Also would have been nice if they could brought one of the original members of the group from 1969 (Jane Relf, Jim McCarty on drums or John Hawken on keyboards) to at least provide a touchstone with the 1969 line up. (John Hawken, up till a few years ago was touring with a reunion version of the 1970’s Strawbs lineup, and I believe he lives in the US now.)

    Hopefully, the tour will continue.

  18. I wish I had seen it. Period. This is a band that has the 2 principles in it. Jon Camp left acrimoniusly some time ago. John Tout recentlyhad a heart attack. Terry Sullivan did. tour in 2001, but declined. Well the lineup from the 80s was different, but still kicked ass, so this is a new lineup. Keep in mind, I personally hope they will be making a recording of new material. Perhaps these concerts are also a testing ground for that??

  19. Without Jon Camp’s muscular bass, John Tout’s marvelous keyboard work, and Terry Sullivan’s dynamic drums, my enthusiasm falls regretfully short here. Rest assured, no slight at all against Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford, but anything less than those five cannot ever match the magic they, as the Renaissance I knew, created together. Settle your differences and get on stage again!

  20. Without Jon Camp’s muscular bass, John Tout’s marvelous keyboards and Terry Sullivan’s dynamic drums, my enthusiasm falls regretfully short here. No slight intended against Annie Haslam and Michael Dunford, but anything less than those five cannot ever match the magic created by the Renaissance I knew from the ’70s. C’mon, all, settle up on your differences and get back on stage!

  21. A correction to the story: “The Midnight Special” show was on Friday nights on NBC in the 70s and early 80’s.

    • midliferocker Says:

      Thanks Doug. Ya’d think I’d remember that having watched it so many times in the 70’s. Maybe it was what I was under the influence of at the time that has clouded my memory, so to speak. Thanks for reading the piece. Check out the blog in general for some other hopefully interesting reads.

      Steve

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: