Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Westbury Music Fair: 23 July 1995

Pawel Plodzik in Poland's 'Tylko Rock' No 11, 1995

Polish / English translation by Monika Kozak


I WAS LUCKY ... Procol Harum, Steppenwolf, Jefferson Airplane

About three pm, that is four hours before Steppenwolf's, Procol Harum's and Jefferson Airplane's concert, I parked my car near the situated-in-a-valley concert hall of the Music Fair in Westbury on Long Island. Waiting for the concert of the three legendary groups, on the occasion of The Classic Rock Event for Summer 1995; I went toward the main entrance hoping to hear at least a few tones of the rehearsal. I was lucky. Procol Harum (my absolute favourite) were playing Fools Gold. However, after a while there was silence. I went out. It started to rain and a storm developed. The sky became blue twenty minutes before zero hour. The crowds were growing.

Holding a large Coca-Cola, I went to my sector. I saw a mobile stage in the middle of the hall, above it whirling masses of cables, spotlights and other gadgets. When the main lights went out and the spotlights were turned on, there were still many empty seats. First on stage was Steppenwolf. They played some good, sometimes hard rock but in all, it was not the kind of music that is capable of moving one deeply, created in a rather simple, coarse and schematic technique. When they finished their performance the audience stood up and gave them a round of applause; the lights were turned on.

For half an hour, the technical crew prepared the stage for the next group. People were filling the hall and when we heard the speaker say: 'Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome from England ... Procol Harum!' there were no empty seats left. The musicians began their march onto the stage and the audience went wild. Gary Brooker, Matthew Fisher, Geoff Whitehorn and two other musicians whom I do not know. Gary, a grey-haired man with a French tress, wearing a blue shirt (with orange and yellow flowers), loose white pants, brown moccasins and no socks (!). This I know because a binocular tells no lies.

The arrangement was unusual (in the case of this group): in the middle Gary, sitting behind Rhodes synthesisers, behind him the double-bass player and Whitehorn with his Gibson (wearing round-shaped sunglasses), on the left very sad Fisher with his authentic Hammond, or the right the percussion. Gary Brooker began. With jokes. His deep voice reminded of Richard Burton (the actor). He turned on his 'machine' and howled loudly. That is how he began In Held 'Twas In I. As it turned out, this was a joke. After a few seconds of declaiming Glimpses of Nirvana he whispered something to his friends and the true concert began.

Cerdes (Outside The Gates Of) from 1967 sounded crystal-clear, delicate although it was true rock. And that voice! A spectacular piano solo, a great guitar, the improved sound from Warsaw 1992. That was my initiation. Then there was a very lively performance of Shine On Brightly (with a beautiful organ solo by Fisher who was encouraged by Gary calling 'Matthew !') and As Strong As Samson in a new arrangement, more modern, with a guitar performance by Whitehorn. They played dynamically, sometimes hard, in an interesting arrangement, in a modern style and yet maintained their original style from the late 60s and early 70s.

The magnificent sounds of Hammond's organs began the dynamic piece Quite Rightly So and later Brooker just like a master of ceremony, delicately began one of the most beautiful Homburg. The 'crystalline' and mild tones placed me in heaven for a few moments. The feeling of bliss and at the same time submissiveness. And meditation. They played harder than in 1992 in Poland. There were raging applause. After an unknown by me rock'n'roll piece [Alpha], the expressive and hard rock Fools Gold led me into a state of total intoxication. Conquistador the well known Spanish motive, because of the lack of an orchestra, was performed by Geoff Whitehorn on a guitar (!). That beginning sounded a little strange but it was something new. They played it extraordinarily in fact. As if they have been playing together for a short time. Such freshness. Applause. Brooker thanked the audience in ... Spanish.

Then they played Boredom, from 1969, reggae-styled (!), very modern, different but also freely. Deserved applause. I looked at some of the faces. Satisfaction. There was a short announcement: 'a song straight from the waves of the Baltic sea' ( ! ) and it was A Salty Dog. I heard and saw once again a wonderful performance of this piece whose mysterious beauty one can not describe (many well arranged guitar solos). And only Kaleidoscope preceded the twelfth and last piece of the evening with Procol Harum, the most beautiful hit in the world ... A Whiter Shade of Pale. Tears. Yes, they were tears of joy. I think they played it better than in Warsaw. The ending was a piano fragment taken from Bach and a hard, rock beat. The biggest applause of the evening.

Because the Jefferson Airplane concert was good but after Procol Harum it lacked some sort of deepness, essence, spirit. It was a completely different world. In the middle of the concert people started to leave although the music was really good. It was however very late, the event ended at 11.30 pm.


Thanks to Mirek Plodzik for submitting this piece by his brother Pawel; Mirek adds: 'Tylko Rock is the best rock magazine in Poland and their journalists make interviews with the bigger rockmans in the World'.


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