Scott Outten writes to BtP:
Imagine it's 1971. You're 16 years old; and anticipating your very first rock concert featuring Procol Harum at the Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania USA. My mother always said that Pittsburgh bore a resemblance to her original hometown of Newcastle upon Tyne – rivers, bridges, steel, and lots of rainy days?
The Stanley Theater was a nice old venue which held between two and three thousand with reserved seating, balconies, lobby bar, that type of place. My friends and I were really looking forward to seeing our favorite band and hopes were high. I believe our only wish was that Matthew Fisher hadn't departed and that we could have experienced THAT lineup.
We arrived at the theater; were happy with our seats which must have been about 15 rows from stage on the floor (stalls, as some say). The first act was a band unknown to us making their second appearance in the United States – Emerson, Lake, and Palmer! I recently spoke to one of the friends who attended; and his first comment was: "Can you BELIEVE how much SMOKE was in the air?" Anyway, ELP put on an amazing show. I remember reading in the news that they were traveling with more and better sound gear than anyone up that point. Even though I never wound up being a big fan of Emerson, Lake, and Palmer, their theatrics, energy, and musicianship could not be denied.
Now, we knew that was going to be hard to beat, but Procol doesn't NEED theatrics. Brooker doesn't have to throw knives at his keyboard or tilt it back and forth 'till it nearly topples over (nor can he, because it's a grand piano that a blind fellow tunes during their setup ... way cool!). Now for the letdown … the sound system and performance paled (sorry) compared to the supporting act.
As for the sound, Mr Brooker asked the audience if we could hear everything alright after the first song (sorry I don't know what it was, but maybe it was Memorial Drive as Broken Barricades was the album the tour supported). Absolutely no piano, and very little vocal was evident. It was all Trower! When the audience responded to Gary's question, Robin's reaction was to turn up his double stacked HIWATT to make matters even worse.
Well, we were disappointed without question; but were rewarded when Procol came through for the Grand Hotel tour (two years later?). Great sound and an enthusiastic performance which included Salad Days and an encore with AWSoP and Good Golly Miss Molly!
Thanks, Scott: further reminiscences of this sort are always happily received! Mail us!
More Procol concert reports at BtP