Symphonic rockers Renaissance to perform at Egg

Annie Haslam has heard the descriptions before — art rock, progressive rock, classic rock, progressi
Renaissance performs Friday night at The Egg.
Renaissance performs Friday night at The Egg.

Categories: Entertainment

Annie Haslam has heard the descriptions before — art rock, progressive rock, classic rock, progressive folk-rock. They’re all supposed to label her band Renaissance.

But the words are not quite right.

“We like symphonic rock, it’s so much like symphonic classical music,” Haslam said of her music.

“For all these many years, we have called ourselves a classical rock band, even though people keep wanting to put us into the bag of progressive rock, which I feel is heavier. We’re a lighter band — symphonic rock is a nice tone for us right now.”

Versatile British singer Haslam and Renaissance will perform on Friday — Halloween — at The Egg. The concert, which will feature selections from Renaissance’s new “Symphony of Light” album, will begin at 8 p.m.

“It’s not just the whole new album,” Haslam said in a telephone interview from her home in Bucks County, Pa. “People will want to hear the classics, which we will do. ‘Mother Russia,’ we’ll be doing ‘Ashes are Burning’ as the encore, a lot of people have been pleased about that.”


WHERE: The Egg, Empire State Plaza, Albany

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday


MORE INFO: 473-1845,

Renaissance formed in early 1969, and there had been several personnel changes by the time Haslam won the lead vocalist spot in early ’71. For the past several years, Renaissance has performed mostly in the Northeast, partly for economic reasons.

“There are a lot of expenses for a band to go on the road,” Haslam said. “We haven’t played the Midwest or the West Coast for many, many years and the promoters — most of them are younger now and we’re a heritage band, we have to expect that — we haven’t played there for so long, and the money that they offer just doesn’t cover our expenses.”

Renaissance was the symphonic entry during this past spring’s progressive-friendly “Cruise to the Edge” ocean liner trip out of Miami. Bands such as Yes, Strawbs, UK, Marillion, Three Friends (Gentle Giant alumni) and Tangerine Dream were among performers in the floating festival.

“It was phenomenal, the ship was full,” Haslam said. “The good thing about something like this is you still have to get to Florida, but it was very reasonable pricing. We had 26 bands over the five days, maybe a little too many, but it doesn’t matter, it was just phenomenal.

“People came from all over the world and saw most of their favorite progressive bands, Steve Hackett was there, Yes. Queensryche was pulled in at the end — they did very well, they’re a bit more heavy prog.”

Haslam would like to do even more traveling. “We’re working on a European tour right now, hoping to get that together,” she said. “It would be lovely to do a show in my home country again.”

The absence of guitarist Michael Dunford remains reason for sorrow. Dunford, Renaissance’s chief composer, died in 2012.

“I miss Michael dreadfully,” Haslam said. “We got the band together in 2009, Michael and I, we used American musicians who are phenomenal, most of them were in my solo band. We were a force on stage together. He was the music director we looked to as well as the musical director on stage. He was the leader of the band; we all miss him terribly.”

On social media

Haslam has embraced social media. She wasn’t crazy about the idea at first, but is now active on band and personal websites, Facebook and appreciates file-sharing site YouTube.

“Older music, this is where YouTube is very handy,” she said. “Brilliant. When that first came out, I didn’t like it very much. I thought, well, people are going to see everything for free and they’re not going to buy anything. There was nothing you could do about it. But it was networking and showing people we were still around. It was, ‘I found you on YouTube.’ That’s where they look you up.”

Some classic rock bands have dozens of clips and songs on YouTube, many from television programs such as the British “Top of the Pops” and American shows like “The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” and “The Hollywood Palace.”

“There’s not a great deal from us,” Haslam said. “One of the sad things . . . we didn’t record the Royal Albert Hall, we didn’t record Carnegie Hall, film it, everybody else in those days did. We had a major record deal and at that time, I wasn’t really on the business side of things. Otherwise, if that was me now, I would have wanted to do it . . . we haven’t got as many videos and things that I would have liked to have had.”

Haslam’s operatic voice has always been a big part of Renaissance’s distinctive sound. The band was popular during a period when other distinctive singers were recording — Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Carole King, Sandy Denny, Maggie Bell and Carly Simon among them.

Haslam has favorites today, but wonders how young singers will be discovered — outside of televised talent playoffs.

“How are they going to get heard when you don’t have the creative record labels like we had in the ’70s that were looking for bands to develop?” she asked.

“Now, most record labels, the ones that are left, want bands that are already developed . . . to survive, they’ve got to know they’re going to be big sellers.”

Mary Fahl, former lead singer for pop rockers October Project, is one of Haslam’s favorites. The two have performed together in the past.

“Her voice is very distinctive, very, very powerful . . . she’s got one of those voices you would know,” Haslam said. “I believe there are probably lots of people out there, but how do we hear them? Where’s the vehicle for them these days?”

Busy painting

Off stage, Haslam is busy with brushes and color. She said she’s painting non-stop.

“One of my maracas broke on stage a couple years ago, I’ve taped it all together,” she said. “I’ve been looking for new ones, I thought that I’d paint them. So I have been looking online for plain wooden ones, can’t get what I want.

“So I’m painting my old ones. I paint guitars, I’ve got one in the Martin Guitar Museum [Bethlehem, Pa.] and I’ve just finished a three-foot by five-foot painting of a horse and a dog, in my style. But you can see it’s a horse and a dog.”

Reach Gazette reporter Jeff Wilkin at 395-3124 or at [email protected]

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