Procol Harum

the Pale

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'The new album is available in oldies shops'

Larry le Blanc in the 'Talent' section of Billboard, 19 October 1991

This historic review relates to the first live gig played by the New Testament Procol Harum, 23 September 1991

Winter Gardens Theatre, Toronto

On the first date of its first North American tour in 14 years, British classical rock band Procol Harum played before an appreciative half-house audience at the1,000-seat Winter Gardens Theatre.

It was not, however, the same lineup of the band heard on the new Zoo album The Prodigal Stranger. Guitarist Robin Trower had other commitments and was replaced by ex-Quiver and Lazy Racer guitarist Tim Renwick. Filling out the lineup were former Big Country drummer Mark Brzezicki, bassist Dave Bronze, and original members singer/pianist Gary Brooker and organist Martin Fisher [sic]).  The two originals had not performed onstage together since Fisher skipped the light fandango to pursue a solo career in 1969.

The 75-minute set was a fine retrospective of Procol Harum’s music, and was dominated by the blend of Fisher’s rich Hammond organ lines, Renwick’s sharply defined electric guitar licks, and Brooker’s sonorous grand piano fills and vocals.  The old songs had the freshness of classics, and the new ones paled only slightly in comparison.  The show began, as in past years, with a hard-driving Shine on Brightly, followed by the quirky 1975 set-piece Pandora’s Box and The Truth Won’t Fade Away, a mainstream pop piece from the new album.

Progressive rock war horses like A Salty Dog and Conquistador retained their drama, to the delight of all.  Naturally, the group also showed off its new songs, with Man With A Mission, All Our Dreams Are Sold, and The Truth Won’t Fade Away receiving the loudest reception.

Procol Harum had once been accused of being rather dull in its live shows, but this time out there was a looseness, lightness, and  humor throughout the evening.  Brooker, straining to hit notes near the end of the night, played the role of a jovial, wise-cracking host.  At one point, he took a gentle poke at the band’s past, noting that “the new album is available in oldies shops.”  To nobody’s surprise, the band played A Whiter Shade of Pale and Repent Walpurgis during the obligatory encore but also performed a rollicking version of Chuck Berry’s Little Queenie (the band, after all, did start off as the R&B group the Paramounts).  A nostalgic evening, perhaps, but the set also showed there is still a considerable spark in the group.

Thanks, Jill, for the typing 

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