Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at Helsinki, 11 November 2016

Reviewed / translated into English by Ville Hilden in Ilta-Sanomat, 12 November 2016

The author himself very kindly contributes this translation into English:

Half a century of Brooker
It will be 50 years next year since Procol Harum released their first album and classic song A Whiter Shade of Pale, whose shadow still haunts the band. This is rather unfair as many think their ascendancy that began in 1967 reached its peak in 1973 with Grand Hotel. The band disbanded in 1977, but in 1991 was again resurrected and after that has been touring rather regularly. It has been a while since the last studio album (2003), but now the band is in the studio again to celebrate the upcoming jubilee year.

Brooker doesn't care much about current Top 40 music. 'In the '60s bands expanded the limits of pop music and evergreens were abundant. A single reason why the creative element in pop disappeared cannot be found. The whole industry has been industrialised and music is being made on machines. It sounds too perfect.' When Brooker listens to music, it'll usually be old classics like Randy Newman and Bob Dylan, who in Gary's words 'sound always fresh'.

Having lived long in the countryside in Surrey, the singer has recently moved to town. 'Not to London however. London is too busy for me. I used to like it in the past, but I'd like to keep my memories of it as they are.' And what would be the best album by Procol Harum? 'The next one you haven't heard yet! I hope it will fulfil expectations.'

Ageless and timeless
In addition to gorgeous music, one of the strengths of Procol Harum has always been that it never represented teen rebellion, like The Rolling Stones. The music and lyrics of Procol have always moved on a certain astral plane where time has lost all meaning. Therefore it's not embarrassing at all to see and hear Gary Brooker, who's in his seventies, sing songs that have been written in a wholly different era, in the '60s and '70s. The dry voice of Brooker is also of the sort that doesn't degenerate over time. The band played a varied set at the sold-out Finlandia-House for a largely middle-aged audience. There was enough material from the beginnings all the way to the new millennium, and already during the firstly performed Shine on Brightly, a few fists from the audience rose in the air as a symbol that this would be no lukewarm gig.

Gary Brooker had his own show between the songs with the band, told a few Brexit-jokes, and spoke Finnish. His singing voice was as before, but mixed a bit steely. In between the hits the setlist consisted of surprisingly large amount of material from their post-resurrection period, and as a surprise a song titled Suomi [sic!].

 But in the end it finally came. A Whiter Shade of Pale, that was played as the encore, was a final reminder of the fact that this kind of music and talent just doesn’t exist any more.

Thanks Ville

Procol dates in 2016 | Setlist

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