Procul [sic] Harum, Civic Auditorium, Santa Monica, California: 26 September 1975
Procul [sic] Harum seems extremely comfortable in the territory they have staked out for themselves. They seem to regard the 3000-seat halls they play as precisely where they want to be, not as mere stepping stones to hockey arenas. And the crowds that fill these halls generally meet the group's assumptions. (Although there's one in every crowd: this night, an eye-patched, flashlight-wielding kid bellowed Simple Sister over and over for all he was worth).
When Procul [sic] is on, their performance tends to even out the varying quality of their material - in Santa Monica, they pulled something from each of their nine albums. The one mistake was to end with an involved translation of Blue Danube; Simple Sister would have closed the show at a peak and shut up the guy with the flashlight.
The band's playing was precise and yet emotive enough to indicate that they were not just going through the paces. Shine on Brightly, an old warhorse, was given a slow, measured treatment that transformed it from the exultant madman screams of the original into something more subtly ominous. A Salty Dog, even without the damn seagulls overhead, was truer to the original, but the mid-section of Grand Hotel was considerably lightened by the inclusion of some tinkly seaside carnival music and a lurching refrain from Hernando's Hideaway. Olé.
Some of the more recent songs, like Butterfly Boys and Nothing But the Truth lack the exquisitely wrought aura of Procul's [sic] classics but still serve as good rockers. And the upbeat side of their Grand Hotel period becomes more riveting every time they perform it.
Even when the material was less than magical, the group's ensemble playing was enough to carry the evening. Mick Grabham has finally found his niche and admirably fulfils the varied tasks demanded of a Procul [sic] Harum guitarist. BJ Wilson is a remarkable drummer: the counter-rhythms that he and percussive pianist Gary Brooker devise are keys to the music's tension.