Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum, Croydon, 25 May 2002

Richard Solly's review

Picture by Peter Christian

'He said that I must soldier on'

What a trooper Gary Brooker is. His voice may have been croaking but his tongue certainly hadn't run aground. Croydon 1 ... Newcastle 0.

I know that people going to Newcastle must have been very disappointed at the cancellation of the bash but I don't know whether Gary's voice would have stretched to both gigs.

We missed the pre-concert festivities but waltzed over to the Fairfield Halls in time for some drinks, a pee, merchandising therapy, another pee, a chat, a quick pee and off to see the Wizard Man.

I have to say Tim Rose's guitar was too amplified. This detracted from the music which otherwise was good. Another pee and the main act.

The sound was excellent. After the now-customary Bringing Home The Bacon Procol launched into Piggy Pig Pig. Funny thing was the piano intro is very similar to that of Shine On Brightly. There were a couple of occasions where intros seemed to go into other songs. It was obvious the band were out to enjoy themselves. Gary apologised for his sore throat. But stranger things happen at sea, shipmates. It was apparent to me that some songs had been ditched as Gary's throat might not have done them justice. No Grand Hotel and no Salty Dog.

The songs that did get played were great. There were plenty of surprises in this most magic of gigs.

I've never in 29 years (oh my God!) of Procol gigs ever seen the Captain of our Ship in such rumbustuous form. Gary Brooker was spellbindingly funny. 'I can't remember the words,' he said ... and we were off again.

This gig was memorable for what was left out but the gems that were thrown in were awesome: Homburg, As Strong As Samson, King of Hearts, Pandora's Box, Rum Tale, Magdalene, She Wandered Through the Garden Fence, Seem to Have the Blues and Monsieur R Monde were all played. And no interval. No time for a pee. Thank Heavens I got this blue bag when I bought the goodies. The DVD is super. Now all I need is a DVD player. There's always something isn't there?

Picture by Peter Christian

Gary had us all in fits when he said they wrote Monsieur Armand in 1967, but to fool their old publishers changed it to Monsieur R Monde in 1974 ... and they didn't notice.

'Any requests?' was greeted with many. I would have screamed out Typewriter Torment had it not been for the fact that a certain chap whom I cannot name for copyright reasons but in fact comes from Germany was sitting in front of me. His mike probably would have exploded. Before you all get too excited the guy sitting to H&^%$'s right was also enjoying himself very vocally ... much to 'H's' annoyance.

We got a rendition of Harlequin which was nice to hear ... an organ instrumental that I recognise ... sort of ... but can't place and a song called Ten Thousand Souls.

As Gary was going through his book of songs he found Imagine. They played it. Most of it, anyway.

A high point for me was a very menacing Whaling Stories. Excellent solos and rhythm.

'What's 1,2,3 in Polish?' Gary asked, and the good ship Procol was steaming again.

I'm glad my fave Wizard Man was played, as well as a pounding Beyond the Pale before rounding off with A Whiter Shade of Pale.

The Hall which was pretty full exploded into a thundering standing ovation. My God they made us wait before returning. The last song was prefixed with 'for our friends who watch us from above ... Repent Walpurgis ... that fooled everyone.

Brilliant stuff. This band is really smoking. Matthew,Geoff, Mark and Matt support Gary in bringing these songs alive with dazzling musicianship.

We trooped upstairs for BtP's champagne reception. This was great fun. There was a chap in a suit. These things always frighten me. He looked like Dave Ball. This isn't surprising because it was in fact ... Dave Ball. The band spoke and we all had a good time chatting and drinking the night away.

A charming lady smiled sweetly as she passed. 'That was Franky Brooker,' my wife said. I didn't recognise her. 'You've changed your hair,' so to speak. I thought she was admiring my very fetching cream jacket which I got at the closing down sale at C&As. I was not surprised actually. The lighting in there can be quite deceptive but a bargain's a bargain. I was robbed.

Picture by Peter Christian

Gary said we'll have to wait for Hermann's (damn I've said it now) recording to come out to discover what 1, 2, 3 in Polish really is. That comment summed up the evening. It was a great laugh. Rubbing shoulders with these great musicians who are also extremely likeable blokes is a great feeling.

And I must remember to buy my next car from Mark ... who seems to have plenty.

I told Roland (BtP still owes me a pound!) that I have something in common with Procol. Our names are usually both spelt wrong. 'Your name isn't spelt the same as Pete Solley?... no ... it's Solly (sorrey about that [Ed.]) . I suppose I'll have to start paying for these concert tickets in the future ... after I get my pound back that is.

Thanks to everyone who made this night truly memorable. In fact we had a Memorial Drive back to Cambridge. There's a nice concert hall there by the way.

But with one eye on the future and one on the past ... About This New Album ...


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