A gorgeous and luxurious breakfast buffet took care of thirst and hunger and the first event we chose to attend was the Yes book showing by Jon Kirkman instead of making our way to Armando Gallo, photographer and biographer of that illustrious band in the seventies, who was scheduled to speak about his book on Genesis. Kirkman explained how his Yes-book was conceived and that this first limited edition was indeed a very luxurous one, with an impressive price tag. In the fall, so he explained, there will be a cheaper version available, but with a soft cover and in a far more ordinary fashion. He emphasized all interviews are very honest, open hearted but some of the members of Yes could not be interviewed because of contractual limitations or, in the case of Igor Khorosev, could not be traced: the man seems to have vanished from the face of the earth. Same contractual limitations apply to the autographs: not all members of Yes were allowed to autograph the book. Anectodally Jon Kirkman referred to the differences in characters between the individual members, mimicking the way some of them had been answering his questions. Jon Anderson explained among others that Benoit David (ex-Mystery) was not fired from the band but resigned on his own initiative. The premier limited edition of 350 copies contains three framed prints, the book and two CDs with all the interviews. If you can afford it, it’s a must for every genuine Yes-fan I guess! More information on this website: www.rslimitededitions.com and for the latest news: www.yesphotobook.com.
We didn’t have time to go up to the Pool Stage where Presto Ballet was scheduled to perform. Neither did we go the meet & greet session with Saga, Queensrÿche, Moon Safari, PFM, Pamela Moore, IO Earth and Soft Machine. While the duo Heavy Mellow was playing in the Atrium, we made our way to the B&W to see Lifesigns, the band with keyboardist and singer John Young. Although the traditional prog sounded really nice, we definitely got that so called ‘déjà vu’ feeling, so we decided to make our way to the Pantheon Theatre since Renaissance was to perform there! So lining up necessary to make sure to be in one of the front rows. It became clear all the music lovers now had discovered their way around on the mighty MSC Divina, because we learned through the day if you wanted to attend a certain event, you just had to come very early to have a nice view and a good seat.
Renaissance 2014 consists of the original member and vocalist extraordinaire Annie Haslam, keyboardist, composer and arranger Rave Tesar, bass player David Keyes, drummer Frank Pagano, keyboardist Jason Hart and - replacing the late Michael Dunford- Ryche Chlanda on guitar. Haslam, who's deaf on her left side and well in her sixties, shared her previous experience on a ship with the audience. It must have been somewhat difficult and distracting for all musicians, because at the time of the show the huge ship was definitely moving and rolling and one could feel those movements clearly. The band openend with Prologue and Carpet Of The Sun, followed by two other classics: Running Hard and Ocean Gypsy. Of course the whole show was dedicated to the Renaissance’s mastermind Michael Dunford and Annie stated she was very pleased to have Michael’s widow Claire and their two sons on board. After having explained why there will be a new version of the last album Grandine Il Vento, with an extra three songs, one of them composed by Rave Tesar especially for Dunford: Renaissance Man. Of course the cover features brand new artwork by Annie Haslam and the album will be distributed worldwide. This new version will be named Symphony Of Light. The band went on to perform an absolute mindblowing and absolute perfect version of the title track. The audience responded with a standing ovation. Haslam seemed to sing slightly out of tune just occasionally, but the overall experience was really, really magical and one could feel the people attending watched the band with great admiration. There was an amazingly positive vibe all around. Apparently, the band felt that too and another track from the new album, being one of Annie’s favourites, was performed exquisitely: The Mystic And The Muse. The band was only allowed to play for five quarters of an hour. Personally I would have loved to have Renaissance playing a full show, but unfortunatly they had to stick to the time frame. After the encores Blood Silver Like Moonlight and Mother Russia the band had to say goodbye, but not without mentioning the storyteller’s session later the same day and their other performance later in the week on the Pool Deck.
Leaving the Pantheon Theatre still with goosebumps from this show, we had to choose between the UK storytellers, a performance by the Prog Rock Orchestra in the B&W lounge or be in time for the storyteller’s session with The Soft Machine Legacy. We chose the latter. Between the songs guitarist John Etheridge explained why drummer John Marshall was temporarily unavailable. The name Soft Machine Legacy became a subject for discussion and as suggested by host Jon Kirkman the name was instantly changed to Soft Machine! Replacing John Marshall the band had a very experienced drummer, namely Mark Fletcher. He proved to be a truly great choice and he played the drums as if he had been a member of this band for years. Theo Travis on flute and saxophone simply is a great musician and long time member Roy Babington on bass is still playing with an amazing ease. Obviously influenced by jazz and fusion music, the quartet performed a few songs, that form and taste were less psychedelic and Canterbury style than those from the early days. Hugh Hopper was commemorated. What became very obvious was that these guys are not in the music business to become rich: they are passionate musicians and want to have fun playing music they love. Well done indeed and being not too familiar with the Soft Machine music we enjoyed every minute of the session.
Next on our list was a performance by multi-instrumentalist Patrick Moraz, the former keyboardist of Yes. He comes originally from the French speaking part of Switzerland and he currently resides in Brazil. He studied Latin and Greek and had his musical education at the conservatory in Lausanne. It appeared to be quite an ordeal to get all of his equipment up and running and it was getting way beyond 6 PM, nearly 6.30 when we had scheduled to go and see Three Friends. My wife left to try and get a good spot for Three Friends and I waited to get a few shots.
Because of the belated show by Moraz there was no way we could attend Pamela Moore at the Pool Stage, nor the storyteller’s session by Lifesigns. In spite of my wife going there earlier we could hardly get into the complety overcrowded Golden Lounge. Although the sound quality was excellent we could hardly catch a glimpse of the band with former Gentle Giant members guitarist Gary Green and drummer Malcolm Mortimore. This part of the ship was absolutely packed and the atmosphere was hot and damp because of the relatively big number of people sitting or standing on this limited surface. Interestingly the band performed many Gentle Giant-songs not played live before or at least not too often which made the show even more interesting. Mick Wilson, The current singer of 10CC, is also handling the vocal duties in this band and for the most part, he did a great job. However, his voice doesn’t resemble Derek Shulman’s at all and one could argue wether that’s a good thing or not. One thing is sure though, the organizers underestimated the amount of people still fond of Gentle Giant’s music, otherwise they would have put them in a bigger venue. Replacing Lee Pomeroy on the bass, the band had Jonathan Noice (Jethro Tull among others) and instead of Gary Sanctuary the keyboard duties were handled by Neil Angilley, an extremely dexterous musician. Songs like Working All Day and Proclamation sounded awesome and what a privilige it was for us to finally hear Gente Giant-music played live for us to see. Charlotte Glasson is most certainly an assesment to the band with her violin and saxophone, among others. In a way it felt similar to Steve Hackett recreating Genesis music. This must be as close to the original performances as one can get! One of the reasons to book this cruise was to see Three Friends and in spite of a different lineup, the band met all expectations. Many thanks guys and please come over to Europe! My apologies for the poor quality of the photo’s. It was too crowded, we were too late to get a good spot and the lights were awful.
We took a break to do other necessary things like having dinner, so we missed the storyteller’s session with Sound Of Contact in the B&W lounge, the storyteller’s session with The Pineapple Thief and to be honest, I still cannot understand how I missed Queensrÿche. Maybe because of some last minute contradicting information, because the information on the screens throughout the ship and in the elevators wasn’t up to date all of the time. Anyway we were well in time to hear Annie Haslam answering questions in the storyteller’s session of Renaissance (pronounced quite differently by Jon Kirkman). Unfortunately, because Annie couldn’t hear her own voice. She wasn’t able to sing more than some parts of songs, accompanied by Rave Tesar and David Keyes. Some jokes were shared and Annie proved she’s still on top of everything.
Than the big event of the day: Yes playing the Pantheon Theatre. Although – in all honesty - we heard different comments, we were absolutely blown away. Kicking of with America, followed by Tempus Fugit we had already seen the covers of The Yes Album, Close To The Edge and Going For The One on the big screen behind the band. Steve Howe stated they were going to play The Yes Album and Close To The Edge in its entirety. Having seen many concerts by Yes from the early seventies onwards, I still count this one among my favourites. Beautiful images by Roger Dean on the screen behind the band, an excellent sound quality and especially a very good performance by Geoff Downes whom I didn’t think he‘d be able to play all the parts by Rick Wakeman, but he proved me wrong. With Heart Of The Sunrise, an absolute favourite of mine, this evening couldn’t go wrong. With the encore Roundabout the band left a very enthusiastic audience after having played for well over two hours. Amazingly close how Jon Davison mimicked the voice of Jon Anderson. Surely Jon Anderson’s role in the band is without question, but I doubt if he could deliver a vocal performance like Davison did. The lads will go on tour through Europe after this cruise performing the three albums mentioned earlier. I will be there again - my wife will pass - but I doubt if it will be as solid, majestic and superb as it has been on this April 8, 2014!
During the Yes-concert there were performances by Patrick Moraz, Heavy Mellow and IO Earth which we couldn’t see of course. After a nice night cap we laid our satisfied heads to sleep well after 1 AM. To be continued.