Gary Shepard has a musical orgasm
Gary Shepard writes to BtP (May 2003)
What a glorious night, Saturday at the IMAC – I will treasure this memory forever.
I had flown up from South Carolina, and my brother, another forever fan, had flown in from Michigan. Seeing the band for the first time in ten years was an incredible treat – a musical orgasm of the most intense variety.
Bonuses for me included meeting several new friends and collaborators, most specifically Allen 'One-Eye' Edelist. Gary Brooker's appreciation of him, followed by the surprise hit of the night, Quite Rightly So, produced tingles up and down my spine and the most exuberant standing-ovation of the night. When Matthew amazed us all later on with a majestically intricate Shine on Brightly solo, the entire audience was in musical heaven.
The show started at 9:20 and didn't end until midnight – a nice, long one. I had the pleasure of meeting and sitting through the concert with Tito, his wife and his daughter. I also met Bert and Carina, who had second-row seats, met and had brewskies with Alan Semok as well as OE 'til 3 in the morning. The manager of the IMAC chatted along with us and asked why we chose this concert to travel to and what we thought of his theatre. For the record – I would have seen them anywhere, but the theatre is a very nice homey place to see the guys with great sound.
One rather annoying fan kept shouting out song suggestions, which Gary tried to quell with hints of fines, and promises not to play anything he suggested. The one exception to this was when "Life is like a beanstalk, isn't it?" was hurled at the stage. Gary quickly began playing the familiar piano walk-up and cleverly segued this into This World Is Rich, adding strings as he blended the two piano parts.
Other musical highlights included the boisterous version of Grand Hotel which the band obviously had a blast playing. I love the eastern European flavor they've added to this. Gary also reprised the ending to Beyond the Pale to allow the audience to catch up on its "Oy!" What fun!
What could top this great evening? Well, meeting the band, of course. I hadn't met them since Boston in 1969. Thanks to a gracious Allen for this pleasure, as we stood gabbing with the lads for 30 minutes or so. A personal thrill for me was having my own CD (Gary Shepard plays Procol Harum and others) autographed by the whole band. This brought some attention as Matt handed it to Geoff, who chimed whimsically "Oh, you're one of them?!" We then proceeded to discuss guitars and gear. Geoff was a hoot, a real fun guy. Matt and Mark couldn't have been more gracious.
Matt said they loved Lost in the Looking-Glass and instead of rehearsing ... they just put on the Palers' Project CD ! I told him I wasn't on that one, but was hoping to be on the next, with material on the CD he was signing. He sounded very interested so I offered another copy to them. They passed it around a bit and Matt promised they'd play my CD on Mark's CD player, with Brooker's consent, naturally.
Gary Brooker himself was a hoot. He took hold of my CD, read the label, and said "Oh, a Gary Shepard CD!" When he saw the Procol label on it, he also said "Oh, another one of those!" We went on to discuss some of the tracks. I told him of some Allen and I were collaborating on, and he asked me what songs these were. I could tell he was interested in hearing the results. That was very gratifying, and I hope he indeed gets this chance. He was quite appreciative, you could tell.
Getting Matthew to smile over old conversations we had had with him was another treat. I asked the two of them if the musical interlude between Autumn of my Madness and Glimpses of Nirvana had a name. Gary said, "Junkie Stuff." I told him it was great "junkie stuff." We laughed. I asked them when they might come down to South Carolina. He thought about it a second, "Hmmm, South Carolina ... yes, we'd like that." I told him it was only fair that since I had flown up this time to see them, that they fly down to see me next time.
He laughed again and played with his pipe. What a night ...
Thanks, Kerry Holloway, for the second post-IMAC picture: others by Gary Shepard