Procol in Boston, May 1992
Worthy updating of Procol tradition at the Paradise
Local Anglophiles have had a lengthy love affair with Procol Harum. The stately British rockers, known for the symphonic ballad A Whiter Shade of Pale, were frequent Boston visitors in the late 60s and early 70s. They played sites as classic as their songs, namely the Psychedelic Supermarket (where Cream once played), the Ark and Boston Common. After having broken up for more than a decade, they returned Monday night.
''The last time we were here, we were smoking dope," said singer/pianist Gary Brooker in one of many dinosaur-acknowledging asides to Monday night's crowd of hippie survivors and curious newcomers.
The genial Brooker, his white hair pulled back in a pony tail, made a reunion album, The Prodigal Stranger, last year with Procol mates Robin Trower, Keith Reid and Matthew Fisher.
Brooker is the only charter member on tour, though he's fashioned a pleasingly tight road band that did the oldies justice, while adding tunes from the reunion album that sounded, stylistically, like hit-and-miss sequels to past glories.
Monday night's 2¼-hour set, following festive, frat-humored rock from the better-than-expected Stools, was an ornate keyboard marathon. It recaptured Procol's psychedelic highs (Conquistador, Salty Dog, Shine on Brightly), but also their soapy, turgid-tempoed excesses. Although beloved in the early days, Procol Harum (meaning "beyond these things" in pidgin Latin) had a pompous streak -- and that was still evident on the new One More Time.
Overall, though, Monday night was a worthy updating of Procol tradition. New guitarist Geoffrey Whitehorn played with the bluesy grit of Robin Trower, while other strong efforts came from new keyboardist Don Snow and former Big Country drummer Mark Brzezicki.
The band displayed its full range by veering from Chuck Berry's boogie-filled L'il Queenie, to a dreamy encore of A Whiter Shade of Pale. A schizoid night, but Procol still bears watching.