Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings at 'Vega', Copenhagen 21 October 1998, 8 pm: admission: 180 DKR (approx. 18 pounds)
Had it not been for the name on the leaflets and posters, one might have considered the act of the evening as 'Gary Brooker's Rhythm Kings'. There he sat in front of the electric piano, conducting the band as some strange clone of Ray Charles and Andy Capp with his pig-tail completely hidden under a dark bluish cap. The Captain was certainly on the bridge.
The rhythmical centre this night was the nominal band leader, bassist Bill Wyman, just three days away from his 62nd birthday, stood there solid as a rock, calmly smoking fags and struttin' his stuff. Drummer Graham Broad was – well, loud, and far from being quite as exquisite and delicate a musician he proved to be on the albums Struttin' Our Stuff and Anyway The Wind Blows. In fact, bass and drums made Georgie Fame's R'n'B-organ (Hammond B3, I believe ... ) nearly inaudible, except for a wonderful solo in Fever. And let's praise the guitarists – Albert Lee and Terry Taylor obviously had a hell of a time. Even when jazz-ace Taylor lost a string, immediately throwing it out in the audience, they kept cool and collected. So for the rest of the song, Taylor and Lee united their efforts, both playing Lee's instrument. I mean: you'd have to be there to believe it.
The excellent saxes, Frank Mead and Nick Payne, also known from their previous co-operation with Gary Moore (e.g. Still Got The Blues, 1990) obviously had a crush on Gary. All the time they kept sneaking up behind him just to let him know they were there. And sometimes taking unforeseen turns, as Payne on his Mulliganesque baritone sax quoting God Rest Ye, Merry Gentlemen in the middle of the medley Hit The Road Jack / Fever. But then again, the whole gig was one great early Christmas gift to Tout Copenhague. Vocalists such as lead singer Beverley Skeete outclass the whole bunch of 'singing foto models' with her jazzy, almost Dina Washington-like efforts. She made us believe that the mediocre Classic IV-song Spooky was a small masterpiece – which it isn't. Furthermore, both female singers Melanie and Keeley defended their version of Green River extremely well – and they look quite amazing, too ...
And Captain Gary? Relieved of the burden of being the founding father of Procol Harum (all together now: Who? – Just joking!) he added his wry musical humour to the songs, whilst consuming a few good Danish pints (they would have crucified him in the States!). First class playing and singing all the way. But then he tried to sell the audience some bullshit story about the band's sheet music being stolen on the ferry. Well, they all did quite well even without bandstands and arrangements. These chaps showed themselves to be the real 'Blues Brothers'.
Originally, I intended to start this something like this: 'It was a cold and rainy night ...' – and it certainly was. About 400 paying guests had found their way to the 'Vega', the former labour movement assembly hall, this night, totally ignoring the heavy rain and the soccer match between Brøndby – Manchester United elsewhere in the city. But the untiring audience could actually be a bit on the more mature side. As heard in the men's room: 'I first saw the Stones in 1964....'
And did they come to hear ex-Procol Gary or ex-Stone Bill? Difficult to say, really, but at one occasion somebody cried out, 'A Wider Shode Of Pool' – whatever that means... But the hardcore Procol-fans bowed and prayed and paid our respects to eleven mates, just having a good time with the entire audience. Kind of 'Last Night at The Proms' in many respects. Anonymous sources tell me that the gig was preserved for posterity (see bootleg CD tracks) on audio, video tape and still photos by some suspicious-looking individuals hitherto unknown to me.
Oops, I nearly forgot: Bill was interviewed by Danish TV (DR1) in their nine o'clock news Monday evening (19 Oct). So perhaps a few people hurried out next day to buy tickets for the show? And the soccer match? The Red Devils from Manchester totally wiped out Brøndby by 6 – 2 with the aid of Danish Man U supporters dressed in the club colours, red and white. Treacherous bastards, I say.
Line-Up: as previously announced (see Frans Steensma's contribution to BtP 12 October 1998).
Let The Good Times Roll (lead vocals: Gary / Beverley)
Walking One & Only
Too Late (l.v.: Gary)
Ring My Bell
Melody (l.v.: Gary / Beverley)
Stagger Lee (l.v.: Gary)
Anyway The Wind Blows
Medley: Hit The Road Jack + Fever (l.v.: Gary / Beverley)
Happy Birthday (yes!)
Rocking Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu (l.v.: Gary)
Ooh Poo Pah Doo (l.v.: Gary)
Tear It Up
Medley: Bony Moronie + Tequila.
And then – the big silence ... Duration: 8.15 – 10.10 pm
Many thanks for the review, Niels-Erik Mortensen
Tour dates 1998