Renaissance - They announced a new website called Renaissancetouring.com which seems appropriate as these venerable progsters have really been living on the road in recent years when I had pretty much thought they had retired. Well, not hardly as they also had a new ep for sale and said a new album was coming. They also asked who had seen them before as they were here a couple years back. Well, no it was last October (reviewed here) at the Birchmere. The band remained the same tonight and it is a good one. For some reason, I always like bass players that play a 5-string bass and this player had his part down. I also like the drummer's light touch even though he looked like Carmen Appice. I had to look to see if he was using brushes and he was only using his sticks delicately. The two keyboards work well together and there is much harmony vocals adding to the Annie Haslam leads. The set list was Prologue/Carpet of the Sun/Midas Man/The Mystic and the Muse/Running Hard with an encore of Mother Russia. "The Mystic and the Muse" is a new cut and within about 90 seconds, they seemed to have drawn from about three songs of their old catalogue. But that is a compliment, as some of their other post-original band material veered into dull pop music. They are trying and succeeding in the retention of their majestic classical music meets progressive rock approach that worked well in their classic years. Their set went over very well with this crowd which was no surprise.
Steve Hackett - I had not kept up to the doings of Mr. Hackett after his departure from Genesis (just before they got bad) and his early solo work which I played at my college radio DJ gig in the 1970s. He is renown as a brilliant progressive guitarist with fiery playing and delicate touch. He has played here before, but it was either acoustic or solo. He has a full band with a rhythm section, keyboardist (who has worked with him for some time), a sax/flute/whistle player and a woman who joined in about 2/3 the time on rhythm guitar and vocals. The first song absolutely smoked with a ripping early King Crimson sound--not completely surprising as the instrumentation was a match. Nothing quite hit that high for me with what followed, but it all went well. There were a variety of styles all well within a classic progressive format. He did some acoustic numbers which showcased his finger style picking which he also used to great effect on some of the electric guitar songs as well. He really does have an outstanding touch so guitar wonks and prog-heads alike do fill out the clubs to see him. I liked the double leads with the other guitarist and all the musicians were first rate. The band seemed tight and whether they veered towards space rock, jazz, pastoral folk, or pop-rock, they hit it every time. I was surprised at how much singing he did, proving that Genesis was correct in handing the vocals to Phil Collins when Gabriel left. Alright, cheap shot--his singing was quite fine although his guitarist took a lead and his drummer had some, too with the drummer having a voice as all but the best lead vocalists. An enjoyable set for me as I delved into unknown territory with a known artist. The large crowd was also very happy tonight.
Quote of the Night - Annie Haslam - "I am wearing these sunglasses not to look like a rockstar, but to hide the migraine I am having. So the band is sympathizing with me (a few more in shades)". She did fine, which although I share her approach in warning people when I don't feel well, it does seem odd when all goes quite well.