Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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From Heaven to Hell and Back

Gary Brooker in 'Shine On', Winter 1995


Nobody ever said that touring was easy, but it can sometimes really test one's endurance and mental fortitude. When Procol left Heathrow on 13th July it was after a very hectic seven days of rehearsing with Graham Broad in the drum seat (a very big seat!).

Arrived Toronto, drive 150 miles to London Ontario, meet sound man (Jo), Lighting (Rob), Back line (Eddie), drink beer and discuss set fall asleep in bar at 1:00am (6:00am BST).

14 July
Go to gig to check new and hired equipment nothing works rebuild the lot! It is 100 degrees outside but we're playing in an ice rink where the temperature is a chilling 40 deg. A long rehearsal follows so that Jo and Rob can find their way round the songs. Doors open 7:00pm (6:30am BST).

15 July
Drive to Pine Knob, Michigan, 200 miles many thousands at open air venue thunderstorms Procol close the bill after Steppenwolf and Jefferson Starship. Ecstatic reception from crowd that have not seen The Boys since the 70s. Organise gear for minimum airline luggage get to bar for beer, fall asleep 2:00am (7:00am BST).

16 July
Leave hotel at 7:00am for flight to San Francisco via Pittsburgh! Arrive in time for sound check at 5:00pm (1:00am BST) on stage at 10:30pm 2 hour set relax in pub with Brits and pals thrown out to bed 4:00am (Noon BST).

17 July
Lay in, fly at 2:00pm to L.A. go to Marguerita bar with pals early night! 1:00am (9:00am BST).

18 July
Interviews all day sound check at 6:00pm gig at 11:30 House of Blues. Two-and-a-half hour set, sold out to fans. Band is sounding excellent erstwhile Brits follow from SF. So many faces to talk to it would be rude to leave. 4:00am (Noon BST).

19 July
Leave 9:00am for Mexico City via. Houston arrive hotel 11:00pm, drink beer with pals from Alan Parsons Project early night, 2:00am.

20 July
Sound check in Sports Palace hired gear a shambles piano wrong Hammond broken 20,000 people! It'll be alright on the night. Learnt Spanish in 30 minutes and Procol win the crowd. Procol open and should be in for an early night but I sit through the Kansas set and Alan Parsons so I can sing Limelight with Al. The crowd love it and dressed all in white standing out front, a glow of white light enveloping me, Whitehorn remarks I appear as some sort of deity.

21 July
Arise elated and ready to go at 6:00am. Fly to Pittsburgh via Houston direct to gig no sound check. Jefferson Starship have played. Steppenwolf are just winding up and going down a storm the world is our oyster! We played at the same venue in 1993 with Jethro and did great. Lets dress in white and play God again!

By halfway through the set most of the crowd have gone home at the end there is maybe 50 people paying attention from the thousands that were there at the start. (audience review of this gig: Gary retells this story in 2007)

There is a post-mortem. It's incomprehensible it's never happened before we played our bums off it was Steppenwolf's home town Jefferson blew their ears out we were tired (we weren't) we must have a sound check we should play the middle spot (can't the promoters have billed you top) let's go home! the boys are down it's too much to take one minute darlings of the entire Mexican nation 24 hours later, alone in a ghastly unpredictable world. It was a mistake to wear the white He's angry!

Alone and unloved in the bar, our hero the Commander ponders life. In the reflection of his tired visage glowing back from his Sam Smith's Boston Stock Ale, words from the past come to him. It was Mitch Ryder who confided to him in a Berlin pub his edict for surviving 'Gary, never lose confidence in yourself'. Feeling the strength of Mitch's words pulse through him and the power of 'being' took over him, he whistled his way happily to bed with Pittsburgh fast become a distant memory, by the time the head hit the pillow, it had never happened.

22 July
Drive hundreds of miles to Philadelphia sold out Steppenwolf open, Jefferson do their thing and now Procol Harum the crowd need them our heroes need that crowd everybody is happy! They love it we're back!


Read the origins of the 1995 PH US tour


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