Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum, Croydon, 25 May 2002

Peter Christian's photographs

Mark Brzezicki proud owner of five automobiles doing what he does best.

The presence of a vocal microphone is unusual ... as is the lack of a ride cymbal.

Gary Brooker made no secret, from the start, of the fact that he had a bad throat ... and there were more than usual episodes of Sprechstimme in his performance.

He did ask if there were any specialists in the audience (given that 'Procol Harum fans are all doctors, lawyers and Indian Chiefs ... liars, the lot of them!'): a lone anaesthetist hollered his availability, but the case was not quite that severe ...

One fan wrote, in fact, that the throat problem was 'astonishingly well overcome by the selection, and occasionally eccentric delivery, of the material' ...

Matthew Fisher, doubly at home
both in Croydon and on the B3.

The selection of his Theme from 'Separation' was inspired. "Gary put that one forward, not me," he assured fans during the BtP Champagne Reception.

Had Gary known, some wondered,
that the Palers' Band had covered
the number last summer?

Matt Pegg, on stupendous form he got the first applause of the night, in fact, for his nifty high-speed lick during Bringing Home the Bacon.

Matt also made a great contribution to the vocal harmonies that the band featured so strongly in the set: in addition to the Ooh-ooh-oohs in Wizard Man and the assorted farmyard declamations in Piggy Pig Pig, we heard Geoff, Mark and Matt in full Hollies throat for Harlequin, and for the impressive new number, Ten Thousand Souls.

The only person not to sing was the one with the most solo vocal albums to his name. "It is curious, I grant you," said Matthew Fisher, "But singing is a bit too much like work for me. I just like playing the Hammond."

As one fan observed, the Procol sound has always been 'ethereal, lurid and ballsy' ... and Geoff Whitehorn made his usual dramatic and uninhibited contribution to each of those moods.

The lighting was effective, but not specially dramatic, though Gary Brooker here appears to have suitable effusions of fire and brimstone above him.

This gig was conspicuous for the real strength of the rhythm section.

The band all seemed to agree about this and put it down to their week of rehearsal.

Certainly they have not been heard in better instrumental shape during the New Testament.

For a great singer with a bad throat, Gary was astonishingly relaxed.

His intros showed a Marx Brothers-like appetite for flights of fancy and logical non-sequiturs. He cut Imagine short at the end of the verse, commented upon how unexpected it was (even to himself) that they'd got even that far then launched ingenuously into the chorus.

"I had tears rolling down my cheeks," said one fan.

It was a generous length of a show, but it had to end. ('No pain can go on forever,' the Commander informed us).

Here Gary is counting his cohorts' forward paces to bring them to a suitable bowing position.

Note that he's wearing his white 'One More Toast' tee-shirt, an almost-birthday present from 'Beyond the Pale'.

And so it was the end of a marvellous first night, with the prospect of several more grand gigs to come.

The band have really turned a corner, airing new material as well as resurrecting welcome surprises from the past.

Do we dare to see one eye on the future at last?


Procol Harum concerts in 2002: index page

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