“It never stops,” says the incomparable Annie Haslam of the legendary progressive rock band Renaissance. “It’s crazy because I manage the band right now. I’m wearing 10 hats. It’s the only way to do it, really, because too many things have gone wrong in the past because of people who didn’t have the same vision.”
Haslam is preparing for the launch of their seven-shows Day of the Dreamer Tour, which stops Nov. 16 at the Newton Theatre and Nov. 17 at The Scottish Rite Auditorium in Collingswood. The Collingswood show is the only one of the seven at which the band will be joined by an orchestra onstage, as they were for some shows last year.
“The reason we could do it with the orchestra last time was because we had done that Indiegogo project and all of our fans came forward and helped make that happen,” said Haslam. “I wish we could, because that’s the way it should be, really. It’s just perfect music for the orchestra; it always has been. But it’s expensive. Times have changed with the music business and of course we’re now a ‘heritage band.’ I’m proud of it but there’s so much competition for the shows because there’s so many bands performing live now.
“We’re hoping to go further afield next summer, to Germany and Italy, and we’re talking about and dealing with that right now. Possibly England.”
No strangers to touring at great length over their 49-year history, this storied group, which formed from the remnants of The Yardbirds, has begun to scale back life on the road, a bit. Not because of a waning desire, but due to financial and logistical reasons.
“We haven’t been to the West Coast in such a long time,” says Haslam. “(The promoters) would have to take a chance on it, and a lot of the promoters are different than they were. They’re younger, and there’s lots of other bands out there now, and new prog bands. Not that we’re a prog band; we’re a symphonic rock band.
“We used to be so huge in Denver, but we just can’t get there. … Somebody asked me recently, ‘What else would you like to do?’ I was thinking, ‘Well, we’ve done everything that you can ever dream of. We did Albert Hall, three nights at Carnegie Hall, we’ve played with orchestras, we’ve been all over the world. But I think one of the mistakes that we made in the ’70s is that we concentrated way too much time on the East Coast of America instead of going out to the rest of the world and the West Coast. We did go out to the West Coast but not all that much, and I think that might have changed things around.’
“What else is there to do? I’d like to go to Iceland, that’s one thing … I’d like to see the Northern Lights, for sure, but I want to carry on singing, and as long as I look good and have my five octaves … I can’t sing those songs if I haven’t got my five octaves.”
With the release of a new DVD titled “A Symphonic Journey” (the band’s third), these November shows are a great way to promote its unveiling and allow the world to see the group up close and personal. Filmed in October 2017 at The Keswick Theater in Glenside, Pa., the DVD shows the multi-faceted talents of not only the individual members of the unit but Haslam’s artwork, as well.
“I painted 11 paintings to go with the 11 songs that we did, and we enlarged them to 24-foot by-12 foot and they were on the screen behind the orchestra. And, oh gosh, that was amazing,” says Haslam.
So why not return to the site of the filming? How and why did they arrive at the Scottish Rite Auditorium for the lone show with the orchestra?
“We usually don’t do the same place every year because there’s other bands for people to see,” she said. “The last time we played the Scottish Rite was (guitarist-songwriters) Michael Dunford’s last show in 2012. I was wearing a back brace because I’ve got a dislocated vertebrae, and that is also the last time that I saw Michael alive.” (He died in November of that year, of a cerebral hemorrhage).
Haslam has been in love with being an artist ever since her childhood in Bolton, England. Her dream was fostered along by supportive parents,
“When I was 10 years old, my parents sent me for elocution lessons to get rid of my Northern accent. And I thought, ‘What the hell are they doing to me?’ They couldn’t really afford that, but they must have known that something was coming to me when I was older and that I would need a well-spoken voice.
“When I was 10, it didn’t work straight away, but it started to work as I got older and I moved to London and started mixing with people who have Queen’s English … That’s why when I sing, people say that they can understand every word I say and that’s why they did that for me. They also let me go to art school because they could see that I was artistic. … My parents were nurturers and they were amazing.
“I love when, after a tour, I’ve got a little bit of time to relax and get on with more painting. I just love it with such passion, but it’s a bit difficult right now because I’m getting this tour together and I have so many things to deal with. But I’m getting requests for pet portraits, and then I’ve got these handwritten lyrics and they’ve got to look really good on a page … So I’ve got lots of projects to keep me busy.”
For more about Renaissance, the current tour or the new DVD, visit renaissancetouring.com.