PROCOL HARUM – NYCB THEATER
After a head injury that lands you in the hospital in intensive care, what's one of the first things you want to do? Well, play rock and roll on a small revolving stage, of course!
That's just what Gary Brooker ended up doing on a pleasant July evening in Westbury, Long Island, where Procol Harum opened up for YES on the second stop of the current USA tour.
The NYCB Theater (still known to all Long Island natives as The Westbury Music Fair) offered the double bill 'in the round,' with a small, slowly rotating stage which provided the most unusual Procol Harum stage set-up I've seen since following the band's live performances since the late sixties. Occasionally half-hidden by an additional drum kit, multiple keyboard stacks, extra mike stands and a small wall of amps, the band had to pretty much be turned inward to communicate with each other. Gary's keyboard was facing into the center and Geoff Dunn was directly across, on the other side of the 'circle.' Geoff Whitehorn was more mobile, standing on the outer edge of the stage, best able to relate to both band and audience. Somewhere in the center were Josh and Matt, who never were able to get to the outer part of the stage till the very end of the set. Despite the obvious hurdles to overcome, Procol Harum certainly ended as triumphant victors once again at Westbury ... .
The packed house was host to a fair share of Procol Harum fans, if the T-shirts were a good indicator. Of course, the New York brigade was well-represented: the Rampino brothers (Vince and Ronnie) were there as well as Tito Davila, Marvin Chassman, Gary Celebre, Evan Wagshul, the ubiquitous Unsteady Freddie, and first-timers, my sons, Gabe and Aaron. And of course it wouldn't have been complete for me without the Lovely Carina ... .
I rarely see the kind of reception for an opening act that I saw Procol Harum receive on that Saturday night. It was a love-fest. Opening up with Wall Street Blues and performing a satisfying (if short) ten-song set, Brooker, Whitehorn, Pegg, Phillips and Dunn won their first standing ovation of the night just past the half-way point with a stirring rendition of A Salty Dog. A scant two songs later the crowd was once again on its feet following a searing-hot Outside the Gates of Cerdes. A wash of recognition swept through the theater at the first strains of A Whiter Shade of Pale. From all points in the circular venue came the sound of people singing along, and the audience was once again out of their seats before the song was through.
Certainly, we would have loved to have more. Still, to be able to enjoy an hour of live music from Procol Harum – and, in particular, to see and hear Gary Brooker in good form after the recent incident that caused the cancellation of the Cape Town shows – is an opportunity to be treasured, and the entire crowd at Westbury seemed to do just that.
Five men performed an hour of very special music. Unique entertainment, as we Procol Harum fans tend to say ... It's more than just the outstanding musicianship – there's a palpable bond between the band members onstage that seems to reach out and include the general audience and the hard-core fans. Without pyrotechnics, pandering, fist-pumping, costumes or hair extensions, Procol Harum inspires its audience by producing inspiring music. All of this from a good old, bluesy rock and roll band.
Now you don't really believe it's as simple as that, do you?
But if you could take it apart and explain it it wouldn't be Procol Harum, would it?
Procol dates in 2012 | Setlist | Bert's pictures from same concert