Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at Drammen, Norway

Drammens Tidende10 October 2009

Not a pale shadow of themselves

Since 1967 (excepting the years 1978–91) Procol Harum have been playing their peculiar form of classical- and soul-inspired pop-rock, with original words.

Pianist, composer and vocalist Gary Brooker (64) is the only one to have been there all the time. He has retained his strong and characteristic voice, and is a jovial and witty guy who, between the songs, complimented Norway and Drammen, among others.

The concert opened with Broken Barricades (1971), and the third song was the band's second largest hit, Homburg (1967), the follow-up to their début single A Whiter Shade of Pale. Josh Philips impressed all the time with his Hammond organ solos, while opinions differ among the fans about muscular guitarist Geoff Whitehorn (ex- If and Back Street Crawler), who, according to many, plays solos that are too heavy and ostentatious.

The 1975 hit Pandora’s Box was also performed, but after fifty minutes Procol Harum went offstage for a half-hour break, very unnecessary since the concert in total was less than two hours [but of course much-favoured by venues, who enjoy bar-takings from a captive audience throughout the interval!]. This of course killed the mood, and the first song after the break, Sister Mary, was also moderately received by the middle-aged audience.

Better response greeted Beyond the Pale (the name of the band's half-official website, whom Brooker congratulated on their twelfth anniversary that night), Cerdes (outside the Gates of), which had a cool bass intro by Matthew Pegg (the son of Fairport Convention’s Dave Pegg) and the classic A Salty Dog. And the introduction of the band-members was followed by an improvised and entertaining short version of James Brown’s Sex Machine.

The only encore was the song everybody had waited for, A Whiter Shade of Pale. It started with Brooker's well-known piano tunes, as he initially sang little bits of When a Man loves a Woman and No Woman No Cry. The audience sang along to these, but when the band reverted to the latter after the first verse of A Whiter Shade of Pale, I feel they tampered too much with their masterpiece.

The classics ‘Conquistador’ and ‘Grand Hotel’ were on the original setlist, but were unfortunately not performed. And the vocal was indistinct at the back of the venue. The concert was good, but I have previously heard Procol Harum better in Norway.

[trans. Jens + Roland]

Procol Harum concerts in 2009: index page

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