One of the saddest things I have heard in years as far as prog-rock goes, was to hear the statement from Annie Haslam recently that the reunion of Renaissance had run its course and the band would be no more. It's a shame really. The bands comeback album Tuscany was a surprising return to form, and listening to this fantastic double live CD from the bands tour of Japan, it's evident that they still "had it", even after all those years apart.
Once the band starts the set out with the lush "Carpet of the Sun", you know you are going to be in for a treat of sophisticated progressive rock. Other older classics like "Midas Man" from the seminal Turn of the Cards album, plus "Northern Lights" and "Opening Out" from A Song for All Seasons, are covered on the first disc, plus gems from Tuscany such as "Lady from Tuscany", "Pearls of Wisdom", and "Dear Landseer." These songs take on an even more powerful nature in a live setting, thanks to the symphonic keyboard duo of Mickey Simmonds (ex-Fish, Mastermind, Camel) and Rave Tesar.
As great as the first disc is, disc two is just stunning. It kicks off with a mammoth version of "Mother Russia", one of the bands most adventurous songs. Simmonds and Tesar create a huge orchestral backdrop over which Annie Haslam's voice can soar. She hasn't lost a step folks, and in my opnion this woman will always be the queen of progressive rock. "A Trip to the Fair" from Scheherazade is here also, as is the beautiful "I Think of You" from Turn of the Cards, and another lovely track from Tuscany called "One Thousand Roses." The encore, of course, can only be, and is, the epic "Ashes Are Burning." Featuring a bass solo from David Keyes, and a ripping synth solo from Simmonds, this version is extremely dramatic and powerful, and the emotional coda brought tears to my eyes thinking that this unit will perhaps never perform this or any Renaissance song again.
While I missed the booming Rickenbacker bass of John Camp a bit and the majestic piano of John Trout, the new fellows, especially Simmonds, performed quite fine here alongside Haslam, Michael Dunford, and Terence Sullivan. If this is how Renaissance are going to bow out, then it is on a high note. A stunning live album, from one of the greats-highly recommended!