Expectations were high tonight as my wife Raquel and I had before the concert an in-deep-conversation about the material Procol Harum would play. We were more than curious to witness once again our lifetime-heroes live after having seen them already on numerous occasions in Switzerland during the last couple of years.
Well we should have not thought that much. Procol Harum is like a good old french red wine. The older they are the better they get. Mind you they always were very good! During the whole set they showed an outstanding musicianship. Gary Brooker was witty, communicative, in high spirits and impressed us with strong and soulful singing, Geoff Whitehorn did a skilful job on guitar, the aristocratic bass player Matt Pegg forming a solid rhythm section with the amazing and new drummer Geoff Dunn. The ever young Josh Philips provided us with a full organ sound. Does this guy never get old? The group had the crowd eating out of their hands from the very start.
Set one was kicked off with a powerful and breathtaking version of Conquistador from their first album. One could hardly believe that so many years had passed since its first release in 1967 fact which underlines only the quality and the timelessness of this song as well as of their other music in general.
Shine On Brightly from the second album was next, a musical pearl allowing us to witness five musicians at their best. Great organ playing by Josh with an excellent Gary Brooker singing his heart out.
Grand Hotel from the same album was as impressive as usual with the musicians playing on a very high professional level. The new drummer Geoff Dunn fits in perfectly to the band bearing in mind that he had had only a couple of days to learn songs from the bandís glory and wealthy song repertoire. Well done, Geoff Dunn!
I heard One Eye On The Future for the first time. Itís a good poppy tune with commercial appeal. Gary told us that they took out this song from the archive. More songs out of the archive, please!
An Old English Dream from The Well's On Fire was followed by the classic Homburg allowing everybody to indulge in oneís rich personal past.
I heard Perpetual Motion from The Prodigal Stranger album for the first time live. What a beautiful ballad! I was deeply moved.
Simple Sister from Broken Barricades brought Set one to an end with a vengeance. Great guitar work by axeman Geoff Whitehorn and cool drumming by Geoff Dunn.
Set two opened with the former concert opener Bringing Home The Bacon from Grand Hotel followed by Pandoraís Box from Procolís Ninth. Two songs that one never grows tired listening to.
Which leads us to the only weak point of the whole evening, Fat Cats. Itís a likeable song, nice to hear but easy to forget.
But as if the group had sensed it they presented an excellent version of Something Following Me from the first album. What a great and classy performance! Gary singing with strong voice about the guy followed by his own tombstone. Great!
Something Magic from the same album impressed the audience once more. The two Geoffs doing a great job.
The extended heavy version of Juicy John Pink from A Salty Dog was to the audienceís taste as well.
The second song which I heard for the first time live tonight was Barnyard Story from Home. I was touched deeply. Such a beautiful song with a sensible Gary Brooker on keyboards and with super voice. Fantastic.
Set two was closed with A Salty Dog from the same album. Needless to say that this song shows what Procol Harum is all about. One of the best songs ever written.
Then The VIP Room from the Wellís On Fire came along being the first song of the encores followed by the inevitable beautiful and haunting A Whiter Shade of Pale.
What I personally did miss was the inclusion of Long Gone Geek originally written by Brooker/Fisher/Reid and released as the B-side of A Salty Dog in 1969. How many times have I gone to Procol concerts longing to hear that particular item. Furthermore having heard that Procol played it recently in Italy I thought that they would play it here as well. We all know that when it comes down to it Procol Harum are able to rock off like a bitch from one moment to another. This would have been such a suitable moment, believe you me! And taking into account that this song reaffirmed in 1969 the muscial beliefs of a certain Mr Richard Hugh Blackmore who had already conceived a vague idea of melting good hard rock with a dominating organ. Long Gone Geek was the final kick that he needed to feel comfortable with being on the right track. The result was displayed in 1970 on Deep Purple in Rock - an album that combined Blackmoreís heavy guitar riffs with Jon Lordís classically inspired Hammond organ. I wonder how many groups Procol have really influenced!
2006 comes slowly to an end and the next year is already knocking on our doors. So what does 2007 hold in store for Procol Harum and all their loyal and dedicated followers? Next year not only marks the bandís 40th birthday, it does mark as well 40 years of stunning live performances and, of course, the 40th birthday of the sensational world hit A Whiter Shade of Pale. Procol Harum are survivors Ė and so are the Procolers and the Palers. Procol Harumís music has stood the test of time. We all grew up with this brilliant and unique music. It was and still is an invaluable part of our daily lives. Itís timeless. Why not launching a project called PROCOL HARUM PLATFORM 2007 allowing every musician who once was involved in one way or another in the bandís musical history making a significant musical contribution? This would be more than rewarding for everybody.
Anyway I would like to express my sincere thanks to Gary Brooker for tonightís concert at the Kongresshaus in Zurich. We are all still relishing.
And next time you are in Zurich please do play Long Gone Geek. Tell us all about the weird things going on at the county jailÖJ)))
Shine On and best regards to all from Zurich, Switzerland.