I spotted The Prince's Trust Rock Gala in the previously-viewed bin at my local video store. According to the blurbage on the case, "Gary Brooker's surreal classic 'Whiter Shade of Pale' proves as powerful as ever." That, and a $3 price tag, made me snap it up.
The Prince's Trust provides aid to at-risk young people, and this show was part of their fundraising efforts. (The tape is copyright 1982; it's unclear when the show was [21 July 1982 (Ed.)].) We begin with two songs by Madness, then get to see Prince Charles say the appropriate things and give an award to Unity, a reggae group who've won some contest. They perform a song. With these preliminaries over, the all-star part of the show begins.
First we get to see Ian Anderson do a song I don't know. (Not much of a Tull fan, I'm afraid.) Phil Collins is on drums. Anderson looks as manic as ever. He's followed by Joan Armatrading with Give Me Love and Phil C. with In the Air Tonight, both solo performances, Joan on guitar and Phil on piano. At this point we're about twenty-five minutes in and I'm wondering when Mr. Brooker's going to show up, or at least Pete Townshend, also promised on the box.
Next up: Midge Ure, doing the old Tom Rush song No Regrets, and there's Pete on guitar and backup vocals, and Phil on drums again, and yes, near the end, there he is, I spot Gary on a keyboard of some sort, just for a second. Then Pete does Let My Love Open the Door, with lots of shots of Phil and Midge and Mick Karn on bass, and two quick glimpses of Gary.
And there it is, a weak version of the signature AWSoP organ line, and finally we get to really see Gary. His hair and beard look gray; he's somewhere between the dark-haired early-Procol version and the white-maned presence we're now used to. He's in good voice, and sounds great over the slighty tentative backing. I can't see for sure whether GB's playing a real piano or not. We continue to get shots of the other players; Pete's strumming along, looking down like he's got the music on the floor. Gary finishes with the classical ending we're now accustomed to and says, "Thank you very much," and all is very right in the world.
Then we're on to Kate Bush doing her thing, with GB among the backup singers; then Ian Anderson's back, playing mandolin and resembling a Renaissance Fair gnome; then Slit Skirts from Pete. He's at a keyboard, and I finally get it that it's the one Gary's been at and it is indeed a real piano. Robert Plant shows up, singing something I don't know, and GB's back on piano, barely visible.
And on to the grand finale, a bizarre yet splendid choice: Sly and the Family Stone's I Want To Take You Higher. Gary gets the best of the lead vocals, with Pete logging most of the rest. There are some wacky dancers onstage. Phil C.'s taken off his shirt. Plant's banging a tambourine.
Then some cheesy credits, and we're done. I cyber-stumbled on some guy saying he'd spent eighty-something dollars for this on eBay. Not worth it. But at three bucks, quite the bargain.