Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum in Manchester

Mike Lee recalls 1977

One of a handful of times I have seen Procol Harum live was at a Manchester gig back in April 1977. The venue was the Manchester Apollo (formerly the ABC Ardwick) - not the most salubrious of venues. As a mere 15 year-old I had crossed Manchester in the pouring rain via two 'buses. The rain was bad even by Manchester standards but I was there well in time for the doors opening.

The queue was not too long!! And by the time the support band, Heron, arrived on stage there must have been all of fifty people there. Heron were poor (for want of a better word). By the time Procol were due to come on stage the doors had been opened to anyone who cared to swell the numbers after Bingo had finished, and by the appointed time about 100 wet souls were in the audience.

A very shy person wandered across the stage and merely apologised for the lack of compere and announced the band as Procol Harum. Perhaps Keith Reid is more eloquent by fax nowadays!

Something Magic filled the cinema with sound and I was in my element, soaking up every note, marvelling at the onehanded drum rolls by BJ and loving every minute of my favourite band. Was nearly cut short though when the roof started leaking but the keyboards were saved by the timely intervention of a whisky glass.

Songs that I can remember being played were a very vaudeville version of Beyond the Pale, Strangers in Space, Mark of the Claw, Pandora's Box, Conquistador, The Worm and the Tree (OK I know it's never supposed to have been played live, but as in Bristol it was here and didn't sound too bad - just must have suited 1977 - but not since), The Unquiet Zone featuring a wonderful extended drum solo, many others I can't remember for sure (it is 20-odd years) plus ending up with This Old Dog.

Kept singing the latter under my breath for weeks until the band played it on Sight and Sound in Concert on BBC TV/Radio which I recorded and then I managed to get the words right! Never heard A Whiter Shade of Pale for another twenty years until Redhill. Did they play it as an encore? I will probably never know because the last bus was due five minutes after This Old Dog and a 15-mile walk in torrential rain just wasn't worth it!!

Hopefully the next Manchester gig will be better supported. (It truly was!)

Thanks, Mike

Procol concert reports
More dates from this tour, with links to other reviews from it
Setlist from this show, which answers several of the questions above

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