Procol Harum

the Pale

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The Italian Pilgrimage, 19 June 2004

Stefano Ciccioriccio

The wake-up on Saturday morning (with some difficulty for Andrea!) was very early. In fact I had a business meeting in Lugano (a lovely town in the southern Italian part of Switzerland, very close to Campione) where we arrived with our Smart Roadster after a 2.5 hour drive from Verona. If I can I always try to mix together business and pleasure while touring with Procol Harum.

At the beginning of the afternoon we spoke to Chris and had the news that the selling of merchandise was impossible, due to the particularity of the venue and of the evening, and that the soundcheck, as for the previous day, took place earlier than expected and therefore, once again, we missed it for our report to BtP. The band was coming back to their hotel whose name – what a coincidence if you’ll refer to the feeling for the evening – was The Grand Hotel.

Not the usual scene at a Procol Harum concert

We arrived at the Casino earlier than the starting time for the evening fixed at 8.00 pm and therefore took the decision to have a drink at a bar on the bordering lake. Let me say that this was a lucky choice! In fact, while drinking a couple of cokes I heard a gentleman seated close to us inviting a friend as follows, "If you have a jacket and a tie why don’t you come later tonight to Procol Harum concert ?"

You must know that both Andrea and I were wearing jeans, tennis shoes and, as usual, our signed Procol Harum t-shirt. The decision was to soon go back to our hotel and try to arrange a better attire. The maximum for Andrea was a sweatshirt and for me a shirt and a jacket that – thanks to a sort of sixth sense – I had brought with me.

So, dressed at our best, we went back to the Casino where at the entrance we met Jutta Beudel who, having already experienced the atmosphere, soon confirmed to us that we were surely underdressed compared to the standard required by the gala dinner (mandatory jacket and tie). In fact at the entrance of the restaurant we were refused. While leaving the Casino we were lucky to meet a very kind manager who suggested me to rent a tie at the vestiaire and try again (in the meantime he was supporting our case with the maître at the restaurant).

I soon bought (at a very cheap 8 euros price) a tie and, after some more insistence with the maître we were allowed to enter. Let me say that once seated, with my jeans and tennis shoes under the table, my appearance was perfect!

The dinner was a sort of "Grand Hotel" menu that I’ve tried to translate in my best English. The restaurant "La Boule" was a great hall where some 250 people (or, rathehr, Casino players), most of them not extremely interested by the concert, were coming in and out for dinner. It was in this atmosphere, with more than some people still eating, that Procol Harum took the stage.

Gala Supper

Curry-perfumed melon salad with turbot and shrimps

Courgette flower and saffron rice with real clams

Pescatrice fish with crisp vegetables and light pesto

Strawberry puff-pastry

Espresso and small pastry

This menu could be considered as a 'ticket' for the concert. In fact is the only existing item in this respect.

After a few songs people started dancing with full participation during their most popular hits Homburg, A Salty Dog and the encore A Whiter Shade of Pale. The concert was very similar to the one of the previous day in Verona with the addition of a very well-performed Fires (Which Burnt Brightly). I have to say that already the short concert in Verona was enough for Josh Phillips to be much more attuned to the rest of the band. Victims of the Fury was again in the list and, probably, can be now considered a new Procol Harum song.

At the end of the concert (some 70 minutes) we met, seated together with Jutta, Umberto Borellini and his wife who was proudly handling a drum stick received from Mark. Umberto, I understood, was in attendance, among others, in Readhill for the thirtieth party of AWSoP. All together we walked to the backstage for the usual after-concert session. There, differently from previous concerts, we only found two persons waiting for the band; they were Italo Galafassi, the second organiser of the Verona Beat Festival who followed Procol Harum to Campione too, leaving his wife to attend the second night of the mentioned festival, and the famous gentleman I heard earlier at the bar suggesting jacket and tie: I discovered he was the Director of the Casino.

After a few minutes Gary came out to have some words with us and we were all invited to join the band and their management in the dressing room to have a drink. There, you can imagine, bottles of red (a 'Dolcetto d’Alba' much appreciated by Gary) and white wine, together with cans of beer, were consumed by all the participants. It was close to 1.00 am when the Director of the Casino, being willing to close the restaurant, invited all of us to the same bar from the afternoon for one more drink. Knowing the place I was appointed as the guide for the group.

While walking there I started speaking with Josh about cars and he confirmed himself to be owner of a Mercedes. I soon confirmed to him I was a Mercedes owner too (now sold) but that I was there with a small rented Mercedes Smart Roadster parked just in the place of the Casino. He was not aware of the existence of that kind of car and, together with Mark (very well-known car expert and collector) asked me to have the keys for a look. They found it very funny and interesting!

Once at the bar, among others, white wine (a full bottle for Geoff), Alexandra cocktails (Gary and Josh), a couple of pints of beer (Mark) and a couple of dark grappas (Matt) were served. I remember very well the order because I was the interpreter between the band and the waiter.

It was 2.30 am when, tired but happy, we went off to sleep leaving – needless to say – the band and their management still talking and drinking.

The landing in Rome on Sunday morning was the end of two terrific days. Thank you to everyone mentioned in this diary for having made all this possible. 

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