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Procol Harum at Croydon, May 2002

Roland Clare

Photo: Peter ChristianThis memo of the Procol Harum concert on 25 May 2002 at Cordon’s Fairfield Halls is based merely on memory, and what I scribbled in a small notebook during the gig itself (causing Geoff Whitehorn to comment afterwards, ‘That was the last thing I needed, you sitting in the front row taking notes!’). If an informal recording eventually surfaces we may find out that I’ve mis-remembered the sequence of events in fleshing out some of these scribblings ... so be it: it’s now or never for these recollections.

We were packed into the downstairs regions of the auditorium, since the Fairfield was not sold out – it rarely is for rock gigs these days, I was told: this was about the same size audience as the Brookerless Rhythm Kings had attracted a few days before. And it was a very good throng, the hardcore Palers conspicuous among the normal public thank to the fluorescent badges, all featuring Keith Reid lyrics, which they had acquired at the Palers’ Fair in the afternoon.

From that fan-filled room high in the Fairfield Halls we had been able to hear Procol Harum sound-checking, and one or two cheeky souls who had penetrated the upper circle of the auditorium had advised us that there were some musical surprises in store. So had Matthew Fisher, when he had popped upstairs for a mid-afternoon drink with the fans (he also admitted to feeling nervous about playing his home-town ... no such qualms were visible or audible on stage, of course). In any event, I for one remained completely ignorant of what these musical surprises were to be, and I’m grateful to those who decided not to enlighten me: because here I was, in the same state of excited anticipation as I remember from the beginnings of Old Testament gigs, when there was always the hope of new material presaging a new Procol album.

The Fairfield show ... the band’s fourth ... began with Procol publicist Louise Fowkes promising us an excellent evening of music, and introducing Tim Rose, who worked hard to warm us up. Rose noted that ‘there’s a few of us over twenty here, but there’s no harm in having a little mileage’: his voice did not betray that mileage, though from my seat it was fighting a bit against his highly amplified trebly 12 string, by Simon and Patrick. A burly figure, his mouth gleaming hugely with teeth, he declaimed his songs with great passion, from Hey Joe (impossible not to hear Noel Redding’s phantom bassline grinding away at the bottom) through a song from a 70 year-old Sheffield steelworker to his big hit, Bonnie Dobson’s Morning Dew: more of a drone song than one recalls. Rose’s tone was predominantly angry, and he sang with his eyes clenched shut behind large spectacles. This last song – lately covered by Procol Harum in the ‘uninhibited’ section of their 2001 live Copenhagen DVD – was received with whoops of delight by loyal Rose fans, for whom this is presumably his ‘AWSoP number.

Without ceremony – without further introduction – Procol Harum took the stage to a gale of anticipatory applause. Despite rumours to the contrary, all were looking fine: it was specially nice to see Gary Brooker wearing the BtP-designed tee-shirt advertising the ‘One More Toast’ champagne reception that was to follow the concert. But as soon as Gary actually spoke – announcing that tonight he had brought two song books, and that they were going to play from the Book of Orchids (a ring binder adorned with a picture of the Procol Harum orchid) it was clear that his voice was rather husky. Nonetheless the band launched straight into Bringing Home the Bacon (‘Opus 85 in B flat’) and everything sounded very much in order, though it was apparent straight away that those of us in the front row would be hearing a lot from Geoff Whitehorn’s backline Marshall cab.

Whereas Procol have often scheduled Shine on Brightly in second position, that characteristic Morse-code piano intro led instead – and with barely a gap – into the splendid Piggy Pig Pig – the first of the evening’s many repertoire surprises, and mildly-scrambled lyrics. Bass and lead guitars underpinned the stomping rhythm with great force – it made the Guildford airing of this song seem almost lame by comparison – and Geoff took an excellent solo: he and Matt also took care of the porcine declamations with which the song concludes. The band were looking confident and everyone was on great form ... sadly except for the Commander’s throat. Whether because of some infection, or because of the strain of an extra day’s rehearsal made possible by Newcastle Opera House’s abrupt cancellation of the previous night’s tour opener, Gary’s normally exceptional voice did not reach its customary heights. Some fans afterwards were talking about it as the curse of the Procols – this was after all something of a showcase gig, the band’s first five-piece excursion in London since Shepherd’s Bush in August 1995 – others were talking about the courage and professionalism of a band so determined not to disappoint the fan body that they took to the stage effectively without their trump card. But Procol Harum have innumerable aces up their collective sleeves and nobody can reasonably have felt short-changed by the evening’s unique entertainment.

Photo: Peter ChristianOne of these aces was Gary Brooker’s hilarious line in offbeat patter between the songs. Though he did take a serious moment to assure the audience that his vocal difficulties were a blip rather than a sign that he had ‘lost it’, his intros were mostly flights of bizarre fancy – some of which had fans in seats near me literally weeping with laughter. The band too seemed suitably amused and from time to time Matthew Fisher illustrated Gary’s remarks with subtle musical footnotes, so that, for example, we heard Old MacDonald had a Farm from the Hammond while Brooker was welcoming us to ‘the posh bit of Surrey’ ... not the other, agricultural end (where he lives himself).

Pandora’s Box was the next song, and it was distinguished by Whitehorn’s long sustained vibrato, interspersed with some dramatic guitar silences, and by a strong organ playout from Fisher, who cued the end of the song. The sound balance had settled down nicely by now, and we’d had a rare sighting of tour manager Ron Manigley when he ventured on stage during the song to tweak an errant tom-tom mic.

Gary announced that the band would do a song in a lower key to do his voice a favour, and he played the verse melody of Magdalene (My Regal Zonophone) right through on the piano – the band listened with studied implacability – then announced, to general laughter, ‘I shall now play the correct intro’. The song went well, sounding more integrated than it had done on the December 2001 dates: lead guitar handled some of the ‘brass’ interpolations from the 1968 recording, and there was lots of smooth volume-control management in the play-out, taking the edge off Whitehorn’s normally-attacking guitar. He and Matt Pegg took the coda’s inscrutable harmony vocals.

Photo: Peter ChristianHarmony vocals – four-part in fact – were a strong, in fact integral, feature of the next song, one of the evening’s great surprises. Gary did not introduce the number by name, but he did herald it as a song recorded by ‘someone else’, albeit with words by Keith Reid and music by himself. It was hard to imagine what he could be referring to but the Hollies’ Harlequin, and so it proved to be: a strong, stately number very much in the style of some of Gary’s solo work (using the rather ‘safe’, poppy chords one hears in Old Manhattan Melodies, for example) but with some striking moments of pure Procol (a dramatic, rising bassline and diminished chords that build up the moment when they ‘slap him on the back’). I had not heard Mark Brzezicki sing before: it was almost as if these extra voices had arisen in the band to compensate for Gary’s indisposition, but he was holding nothing back himself: after a very stately Homburg he launched into the next piece, The King of Hearts – not Lime Street Blues, which someone had called for – with great vocal emotion, occasionally speaking particular words, a technique that added to the heartfelt aura of the number. Matthew Fisher did not disappoint in the song’s final moments, signalling the end of his baroque Hammond cadenza with a decisive – somehow macabre – guillotining gesture of his free hand.

Gary Brooker made light of his affliction, offering to ‘slip into Joe Cocker mode’ (it was ironic to think that some singers have built whole careers on the kind of huskiness that Gary was battling against): he said he’d been speaking to Geoff Whitehorn’s wife (Annie, whom he calls ‘Wendy’), who is ‘an ear nose and throat specialist’, and he mentioned that most Procol Harum fans are ‘doctors lawyers and Injun chiefs ... liars, the lot of them’ (the quotation is from Willi and the Hand Jive, of course). But no doctor came forward, though I think I heard an offer later from a roving anaesthetist. Gary then began his customary ruminations on Procol’s ‘trilogy of war songs in four parts’: a fan, anticipating what was to come, shouted out for Samson, whereupon Brooker abandoned his habitual spiel about the unchanging horrors of the world and said, ‘OK, we’ll do that one instead ...’. I must admit that I still don’t greatly care for the up-tempo version of As Strong as Samson – I always loved the original cycling piano introduction, which is now reduced to a Supertramp vamp – but the arrangement has acquired a lot of textural variation over the years and some subtle shifts of rhythmic emphasis, and it is a real crowd-pleaser: Geoff Whitehorn wrought a brilliant solo in the middle section, ending with bi-manual widdling and power-chords, which justly earned a full round of applause, and we all sang the see-sawing melody at the end.

By this stage in the concert it had become apparent that the band was not following a pre-ordained setlist, as Gary began turning the pages of The Book of Orchids and talking about ‘playing it by ear’ (not ‘by ’ere’). Perhaps he was looking for songs that would spare his voice, perhaps he was just playing for time: certainly he took a minute off for a mysterious rhapsody about record sales: ‘There’s an album out,’ he told us, ‘and we don’t like albums coming out unless we actually played on them ... unless it’s the Beatles, of course.’ A new Beatles album has of course seemed no more unlikely than a new Procol album for a great many years, and this concert was to prove a turning-point inasmuch as the band seemed at last to be opening one eye on the future. However this introduction was not about new material, nor was it a rant against Procol re-issues, but some praise for the re-release (‘in Western Australia’) of a very old song, Seem to Have the Blues (Most All of the Time) (which title was uttered in a very curious accent). There was bit of fun with the piano presets on his RD 600 (he claimed still to be playing a Marimba with his left hand) and an explanation that Procol are ‘Humanists ... hunting, shooting, fishing, jousting, and playing music!’ which led – naturally enough – into a blast of the mediaeval Pastime with Good Company, from the Gary Brooker ensemble’s Within our House album. My notebook reminds me that Gary imagined a punter going into Our Price and asking, ‘Got any Henry VIII?’ while Matthew Fisher doodled the theme from Workers’ Playtime ... it was that sort of evening. When the song eventually got going (‘after "one"’) we were treated to some exciting Jerry Lee style piano. The New Testament band plays this with far more conviction than we hear on the sketchy demo that survived the October 1967 sessions, but it’s not hard to see why this essentially insubstantial song was taken no further at that time, with the likes of Shine on Brightly and In Held ... waiting in the wings.

Photo: Peter ChristianGary seemed keen to have a break, but he hadn’t got a watch on so he couldn’t judge how long he’d been playing. Before long he was riffling once again through the pages of The Book of Orchids, giving his voice a break, looking for a particular title. When Imagine caught his eye – isn’t this a song Gary took over, with the Rock Symphony, when Paul Young was having his own voice problems? – he launched into that, perhaps not expecting the rest of the band to follow him. But follow him they did, Matt Pegg watching with particular care. ‘Imagine all the people ...’ he began: I wondered how the Brooker larynx would cope with the vocal gymnastics that introduce Lennon’s chorus, but he cut the song just before that point, admitting he was surprised it had got that far ... as if the happenings on stage were entirely outside his control. Then suddenly – hilariously – he went back into the chorus and they completed a whole round of the song together, with a tasty guitar coda ... so much for vocal respite! This spontaneous burst of Lennon adds a little more to the sequence of Beatle throwaways and stowaways in Procol performances ... one thinks of Get Back as well as the obvious Eight Days a Week, which they disinterred last June in Denmark. And does anyone recall the mid-70s Swansea gig when Procol reportedly played Paperback Writer?).

‘Any requests?’ Gary then asked us. But there was such a torrent of suggestions (will we ever hear Something Magic, I wonder?) that he eventually silenced them with the declaration that Procol Harum ‘doesn’t do requests.’ And he began explaining that the band had a few songs that mention Christmas, taking himself aback with the realisation that it was nowhere near Christmas! Nonetheless, he determined to play a song that mentioned Christmas, to remind us of what had happened a few months ago, and of what would happen again ‘after we lose the World Cup’. And so the band – with full vocal harmony – launched confidently into Wizard Man, with Gary declaring that it was in C, though it’s really in G, and that he didn’t know the words, but that it didn’t matter, he would make them up.

The next choice of song was somewhat surprising, considering the burden that it places on the vocalist. A Rum Tale is lyrical, highly melodic – and yet Gary carried it off. It seemed on this song that Gary’s voice was getting better, and other small adjustments in the band were notable too: and Matt Pegg trimmed the controls on his Fernandes five-string bass and achieved a fat and sturdy sound. The highly-Leslied Hammond solo was attractive without straying too far from the Copping mould; the drums on the other hand, emphasised a very waltzy 3/4 feel.

The next number started with a request for us to join in the chorus – which few people did: for that, the band would have to wait for the Copenhagen gig, when a posse of unfeasibly nubile young Danes seemed to know all the words to this number! – and an apparent dispute between Gary and Mark – I wonder what the casual punters will have made of this? Mark began She Wandered Through the Garden Fence, only to be abruptly cut off by the Commander with a challenge about the tempo; when the drummer protested that he was correct, Gary shrugged it off with ‘I’ll take your word for it’ and the song began exactly the same for a second time. It was splendid to hear this ditty live – silly, ‘a perfect pop song’ as Geoff Whitehorn later called it – though from my seat there was really far too much rhythm guitar, punching out the down beats. The Jeremiah Clarke inspired organ solos, though, sounded just like the record still, and the ending – enhanced by Indian-menu mnemonics, as seen on the ‘Uninhibited’ section of the DVD – was suitably crisp.

Photo: Peter ChristianWhereas Gary has sometimes havered over the introduction of Whaling Stories – which has perhaps the least well-defined opening in the canon, if one recalls the various formal and informal recordings down the years – this time he plunged straight into it with no introduction. As is becoming his habit when a song starts solely with the piano (A Rum Tale, for instance) he didn’t announce it at all, but relied on his band-mates to pick it up, which of course they did. Bass and drums were closely co-ordinated in this song, which developed a marvellous power in the middle section. Of course the elements of speaking, hollering, shouting and screaming in this number offered Gary some vocal respite: there was some nice digital echo applied to particular declamations by sound-man Graham Ewins, too. There were those in the audience who felt that Gary’s indisposition, and the consequent lack of real emotional highs in his vocal performance, inhibited the other soloists; but in this number I felt the band positively seemed to be rising to the challenge of compensating for their leader: but maybe this is because I find Whaling Stories such a thrilling number as its epic qualities work on our imagination whatever notes are actually played.

It was eighteen minutes past ten, Gary discovered, and he needed another rest; so he entertainingly confirmed to the audience what the BtP team had suggested in Taking Notes and Stealing Quotes a year ago – that the title of the next song had been changed from M Armand to Monsieur R Monde in order to hoodwink the publisher of the original. Astonishingly we learnt that the publisher had fallen for this ruse, surely one of the most transparent disguises imaginable. And why not call the revamped song Jekyll and Hyde or Grappling Hook, if you really wanted to disguise its kinship – its identity – with the original?

Gary counted in this number in German – unusual perhaps, but unremarkable on this particular evening. However the band was not perfectly co-ordinated, which he attributed to the fact that Mark cannot speak German. Marx-like, he decided that Brzezicki needed to be addressed in Polish – as if English were somehow unavailable or unsuitable. ‘Anybody know Polish?’ Gary asked, and to his surprise found Mac Gajda – Procol’s host, with Mirek Plodzik, when the band visits Poland – sitting a very few feet away in the front row. Mac obliged with a Polish translation, which Gary heard as ‘Half-past two’ – and it was with this bizarre verbal formula that he counted in Take Two of this number. In fact Mac’s reward for this multilingual munificence was to be anointed with bottled water later on, flung over him by Geoff Whitehorn as he quit the stage at the end of the show.

Next up was one more of the evening’s great surprises, and a great treat. Gary spoke of an early Fisher piece, ‘Opus Minus One, the one he wrote before his first song’, in his Chrome (‘Croham’ ... a joke for Croydonians) period. He adjusted his Roland RD600, knocking on the casework to wake up the sound he wanted – ‘I’ve got the London Symphony Orchestra sampled in here’, he declared – and played some portentous minor chords reminiscent of Finlandia – or of Rambling On. But then a familiar Hammond line cut in (with the Fisher trademark pickup of three quavers before the bar-line, as we hear in Repent Walpurgis and in Pilgrim’s Progress) – and the Theme from ‘Separation’ was under way, to a ripple of applause. Way back in July 2000 the Palers’ Band had decided to tackle Separation at the Guildford convention: but it was one of the numbers that bit the dust in rehearsal – so many chord changes, so much subtlety. It was a great delight to be able to play it instead at Manchester in following year, and a source of some regret that Procol Harum themselves, stuck in a taxi, didn’t get to hear it, since we thought it had a suitably Procolesque quality about it. It is probably only coincidence that this fine number has since found its way into the proper Procol repertoire (put forward by Gary, we understand, not by Matthew). Certainly the proper band does not tackle it in the way the Palers attempted it, with a heavy Walpurgis beat and much melodic guitar. It was approached more in the spirit in which they used to play the Adagio of Albinoni, as a concert piece to be reproduced carefully with little scope for improvisation – in this respect, quite unlike Repent Walpurgis. This Croydon Separation truly highlighted the solo Hammond melody, and Geoff Whitehorn’s guitar took only a brief, bluesy solo (garnering a round of applause) in the G minor section, before the spotlight swung back to the organ for the melodic reprise. Separation earned a standing ovation, and Matthew Fisher looked very pleased.

This was followed by a moment’s clowning from the piano – in a mimed telephone call Gary explained that they had only ten more minutes to play, and asked his imaginary interlocutor to ‘hold the anchovies’. Then he introduced a new song, Ten Thousand Souls, some seven minutes of melodic rock with a mildly country flavour that would not have been out of place alongside Hang on Rose or The Angler from his second solo album. To my ears the opening was very strongly reminiscent of Elton John’s Your Song, and later Geoff Whitehorn opined that the new Elton John album sounds very Procol Harumish. Gary’s husky voice imported a real sense of melancholy to Keith Reid’s rueful libretto, which is closely based on WH Auden’s Refugee Blues.

Photo: Peter ChristianReid commented in a 1997 interview that ... "if there’s anyone I’d identify with it would be Auden. I’ve read some of his stuff and thought, ‘Jesus, that’s something I could have written’." Nowhere is the cross-fertilisation more apparent than in the song that has come to be known as An Old English Dream: Auden’s poem begins, ‘Say this city has ten million souls,’ whereas Keith greatly reduces this to ‘ten thousand’ souls ... not really enough to constitute the population of a modern city, unless he refers to a discreet subset of a city. However Auden’s second line, ‘Some are living in mansions, some are living in holes’ is reproduced in the Reid lyric more-or-less exactly. Keith also borrows the start of stanza two ‘Once we had a country and we thought it fair’ but he notably changes the following line: Auden’s ‘Look in the atlas and you’ll find it there’ is transformed into ‘look through the mirror’ ... which seemingly demolishes the political potency of the original, 1939 lyric, supplanting it with a more other-worldly, introspective melancholy. Elsewhere, though, Reid is less apolitical, with ‘now our great country is broken and torn / and all of its promise and liberty’s worn’ ... though it’s not entirely clear which country he is alluding to, since ‘liberty’ is so closely associated with the self-image of the USA, while the rest of the song seems to focus on more English imagery. Perhaps the lyric is deliberately both vague and inclusive, like that of Within Our House: several people wondered if this were the response to the Twin Towers attack, which Keith Reid mentioned to DJ No 6 that he had written [we now know, of course, that this song was probably The Blink of an Eye] and maybe that’s the ‘broken down building with ten thousand doors’.

While Auden’s poem commemorates the general Kafkaesque obstructiveness of bureaucracy, ‘Went to a committee; they offered me a chair / asked me politely to return next year’: it’s also shot through with the urgent, melancholy predicament of the German Jews – ‘where shall we go to-day, my dear, but where shall we go to-day?’ – which Reid omits, preferring a less culturally-specific flavour. However there are plenty of images in the Auden piece that recur, transformed, in the Reid. Auden’s ‘Saw a poodle in a jacket fastened with a pin, Saw a door opened and a cat let in’ may be the source of the line ‘dog in the manger, cat with the cream’ – although that line was later changed, in FAX collaboration between Brooker and Reid, and was sung on subsequent dates as ‘babe in the cradle, cat with the cream.’ There were other indications that this song was still somewhat provisional at Croydon: gone, on later 2002 gigs, were the lines of the opening chorus, ‘Out in the pouring rain, so far from the fire’, and gone also was the curious line that namechecked two specific places – or specific songs – Penny Lane and Mull of Kintyre.

Auden tells us that he ‘Dreamed I saw a building with a thousand floors’ which Reid turns into ‘a broken-down building with ten thousand doors’; and ‘Not one of them was ours’ is transformed into the incomparably bleak ‘None of them open, and none of them yours’: more personal, less political. In fact BtP learnt that Ten Thousand Doors had been a suggested title for the song. Auden explicitly states that he’s relating a dream, whereas Reid reduces the dream reference to the climactic chorus-rhyme for ‘cream’, though the song now seems to be known as An English Dream which restores the dream emphasis (it also sounds a bit more ‘English psychedelic’ and dated: I later wrote to PH management that Ten Thousand Souls seemed a more Procolesque title ... reminiscent of the endless procession of swarthy zombies depicted inside the grand piano on the George Underwood Shine on Brightly cover?).

The ‘Old English Churchyard’ in the chorus is not a reference to Stoke Poges, as far as one can tell, but seems to derive from ‘In the village churchyard there grows an old yew’ ... which Auden uses to remind us that old passports, unlike old trees, will never blossom afresh. Other images of desolation in Refugee Blues that are borrowed for the Procol song include ‘Stood on a great plain in the falling snow ‘, which Reid changes to ‘Saw a great plain in winter’ ... but he borrows the next line, ‘Ten thousand soldiers marched to and fro’ wholesale. Of course there is material in his song that doesn’t relate back to the Auden, such as the opening of the chorus, ‘Saw a great highway that stretched to the stars’: later in the year this was regrettably simplified to ‘Saw a great highway right up to the stars’ ... alliteration giving way to singability, I guess, though the album version restores the alliterative version. And the ‘river choked with cars’ sounds very much like an environmentalist’s protest.

So perhaps this is a Manhattaner looking at the desolation of the Twin Towers, and dreaming back to the English scenes of his early life: does the music offer an equivalent poignancy? I think it does: the verse has a tender melody, with a falling bass line and interesting chord inversions; the chorus makes repeated use of a much more conventional chord sequence, with an immensely catchy melody which – perhaps thanks to its many repetitions – I found myself humming four days afterwards. "I know it’s catchy," said Gary after the show, "which is why I left it at that." Matthew later said that he found the song over-long – at seven minutes it rivals Whaling Stories. "You know me," said Matthew, "I like pop songs short and sweet." He reminded me that most of the songs that he had selected to be played at his wedding party had been around the three-minute mark, and declared that he enjoyed playing Wizard Man – not most Procoholics’ favourite material – for that very reason. Certainly the new song does not pretend to the epic qualities of Whaling Stories ... but it’s very effective in performance, with the four-part harmony chorus ... and the trick ending ... suggesting that it will run and run.

‘No pain can go on forever,’ said Gary towards the end of the evening: in the absence of a fixed set list, he seemed to be constantly assessing how much time the band had left on stage. Then he talked about a great trek that the band had undertaken across the Norwegian fjords and up ‘beyond the pale’. This excellent stomping number was discharged with great panache and I was glad to hear the return of the Marlene Dietrich-style ‘vill’ for ‘will’. As has become their custom, the band reprised the last few bars, in the hope of eliciting a sturdy ‘Oy’ from the assembly.

Photo: Peter ChristianGary finally announced A Whiter Shade of Pale ... ‘one we don’t normally have in the set’ … ‘in great commemoration of this particular day when AWSoP first came out’. He reminded us that the song hailed from 35 years ago when many of the audience were not around. Despite this, Gary mentioned that he ‘looks out there’ and sees ‘all those thick heads of hair’ (whereupon Geoff ungallantly mentioned my name!) and ‘only one in fifteen with glasses on’ (whereupon Mr Whitehorn felt moved to remove his own spectacles). However this bonhomie did give way to an outburst of decent indignation that Procol had not been invited to play at the Queen’s imminent jubilee celebration. ‘I’d like to say how pissed off we are with the Royal Family for not inviting us along to their Palace, and I mean seriously pissed off, like mad. Or, as somebody I know puts it, really strongly, ‘cross’.’ This was an AWSoP with three verses, including a fascinating organ variant before the third; Geoff decorated the song with restraint, as suggested in his article about it in Guitar Techniques. [mp3 samples here and here]. Needless to say the famous number went down extremely well, and it was easy to forget that Gary had been in vocal difficulties earlier.

And the concert began to wind to a close … with Gary producing a note and imitating Neville Chamberlain (albeit with a German accent!): ‘I have in my hand a piece of paper … Herr Spankholm, wishing you a happy birthday.’ The message was in fact from Copenhagen’s Juliette Spangholm, and the birthday was not hers, but that of her partner Axel Leonhardt, a key member of the Danish Union of Procoholics. Gary then invited us to join him in a ‘A good swear, "Oh Bugger!"‘ (a few weeks later he confided that this ‘works even better with an Australian accent’!) and then started the final dedication. ‘For all those who aren’t here’ (which produced audience laughter) ‘because they watch us from above’ (that quelled the audience laughter, as Gary was quick to point out!). Then, despite the fact that all the cognoscenti were expecting A Salty Dog, the band then launched into Repent Walpurgis … a powerful, though not a flawless version. But still the audience clapped each of the final crashing chords – astonishingly! Only at Manchester, of all the Procol shows I’ve been to, did the audience appreciate the need to hold their applause until the harmonic geometry of the final chords had fully unfurled.

So … a memorable show, great warmth and some new material on stage, great delight and multilingual friendship in the audience. And of course, it was still months before we definitely knew that a new album was at last going to be made!

Procol Harum concerts in 2002:
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