Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at Paris Olympia, 14 March 2005

Review for BtP by Frans Steensma

It was nearly forty years ago that Gary Brooker first set foot at the stage of the Olympia Theatre. Early October 1965 The Paramounts backed Sandie Shaw during a three-week engagement at this famous theatre in Paris. Nicci Rousse of Chelsea, London was there and she wrote to New Musical Express (29 October 1965): Recently I visited Paris and took the opportunity of seeing the Richard Anthony show at the Olympia. I was disappointed with his performance, which seemed endless; the show was saved by Sandie Shaw. I would also like to mention Sandie's backing group, The Paramounts. They were fantastic! These four boys have more talent than any other group I have ever seen or heard. Their talent is being wasted using them as a backing group. Their sound is marvellous and the drummer is something of a genius. I hope we'll hear a lot more of them.

Photo thanks to Melanie SchweizerAfter a short acoustic set by Hot Tuna (you wouldn't believe how Jorma Kaukonen's looks have changed since the sixties) and a well-received set by Manfred Mann's Earth Band (including Mick Rogers on guitar and Noel McCalla on vocals) Procol entered the stage at 11.20 pm. It was Geoff Whitehorn's guitar on The VIP Room that started the proceedings. In his Beatles tee-shirt he got the right tone straight away and when the rest followed the sound was magical especially Mark Brzezicki's drums, which sounded better than ever.

In Homburg Josh Phillips's organ really came to the fore, with Geoff chipping in with short staccato notes. Gary's voice was in great shape and would lose none of its power during the concert. The beginning of Toujours l'Amour was one of the highlights of the evening. Working as a well- oiled team they really burst into the song after Gary's opening piano notes: powerful chords were impeccably played. GB really put weight on the words 'A French girl' (as he would do later on Grand Hotel with 'These French girls'). After the third number Gary welcomed the audience in his best French and said he was glad to be in Paris again.

Luskus Delph was introduced as a song of quite some years ago but it sounded as fresh as could be: still one of the better Brooker-Reid compositions, and highlighted by some very tasteful playing by Geoff. This changed drastically in Shine on Brightly when Geoff played the well-known screeching tones masterfully, nicely complemented by a fine solo by Josh. An Old English Dream really proved Gary's form, helped out by some fitting backing vocals by Geoff and Matt Pegg (in a new suit, bought that afternoon for 16 Euros at a Parisian flea market).

Photo thanks to Melanie SchweizerThen Gary informed the audience that it was forty years ago that he first set foot on this stage and that he met at the time a good looking 'jeune fille' (Franky). Response from the audience: 'You're a lucky man'. Gary agreed, smiling. Then for the second time this French tour Procol played an all -French version of Gary's Trick Of The Night (but a Brooker/Fisher/Reid composition). Translated by Franky it had a lot of jeunesse, tristesse and tendresse in it: a finely-crafted lovely small masterpiece.

After this dreamy intermezzo it was time to rock out. The ideal follow-up: Simple Sister. On this Broken Barricades song Matt played his best bass lines that evening, powerful, intricate and masterful. Marred by some monitor problems, Procol continued with 'un petit histoire de l'homme': Something Following Me: simple but effective. Then a jump from their first to their latest album: Shadow Boxed, led on guitar by Geoff, with some nice backing vocals by Matt and Geoff. Dedicated by Gary to this website, it was then time for Beyond the Pale. Taken at a very slow pace, it really built up. The collective 'Hoy' cheer at the end proved this band to be a tight-knit unit, not five separate musicians playing together.

'Thirty years ago we had dinner at the Grand Hotel, today we had pizza,' GB dryly stated. Again he tried his best French pronunciation on 'The nights we stay at Hotel Grande' and 'Tonight we dine at Hotel Ritz'. Conquistador was highlighted by some strong playing by Josh: great intro and a fine solo. The final song, A Salty Dog, received by far the best reception that evening. The tones Geoff wrings from his guitar at the start and at the end sound more and more like a real gull: amazing!

Before the first encore Gary introduced the band in French, after which they dived into Kaleidoscope, with a nice solo by Josh. The two-verse AWSoP meant the end of a remarkable and long evening. The concert started at 20.40 pm and ended four hours later ...

Photos on this page thanks to Melanie Schweizer

Procol at Paris

Procol Harum concerts in 2005: index page

More Procol writings from Frans Steensma

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