Renaissance – Union Chapel

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Why this gig?

“Northern Lights”. I realise it’s a risk going to see a band on the basis of a single song from 1978. But it’s a hell of song.


The support were called Blackheart. They’re a duo from the folkier edges of the prog spectrum. It was all a bit embarrassing to be honest. Their accents didn’t help either – I kept seeing them as an act from “Phoenix Nights”. When one of them announced a song saying “this is for a country I fell in love with ten years ago – it’s called Darling Africa,” it just sounded like a line that Peter Kay would write.


I have a theory that there’s only really one way to get to love a prog rock album. And that’s to be a fourteen-year-old boy and to listen to it incessantly alone in your bedroom until you know every note. That’s how I grew to love Genesis, Yes and Pink Floyd and I’ve found it really hard to love any prog rock I’ve been introduced to since that time.

Unfortunately for Renaissance, I didn’t listen to anything other than “Northern Lights” back in the 1970s so the rest of their back-catalogue is a mystery to me. Before going to the show I listened to A Song For All Seasons (the album that “Northern Lights” is from) and it left me cold. So I didn’t have high hopes for the show.

And I didn’t enjoy it at all. It turns out that a lot of the band’s material is from the jazzier end of prog rock and it just reminded me of Spinal Tap’s Jazz Odyssey. After three songs (and they’re long songs!) I was longing for them to play “Northern Lights” so I could leave. They finally played it after an hour (not a particularly good rendition either) and I quickly made my exist.

From what I could see, my opinions were very much in the minority. Most of the audience were loving it. I guess they listened to Renaissance when they were fourteen.

Oh, and Annie Haslem has apparently spent too long living in the US. She now pronounces the name of the band as “Renna-sance” rather than “ReNAY-sance”.

The setlist is on

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2 responses to “Renaissance – Union Chapel”

  1. I listened to Renaissance frequently in my late teens – as much as any other prog band: Floyd, Genesis, Yes, Moody Blues, etc., and regard them as being up there with the best of them. The original idea behind Renaissance was to put out rock music with a classical slant, and the music does ‘reference’ some classical composers, including Debussy and Tchaikovsky (the ‘1812 Overture’ in ‘Northern Lights’). The longer songs are what they were about – great melodies and great performances. If you have ever trusted a stranger, trust me on this.

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