And everything old is extremely new again! If there wasn't going to be new material it didn't much matter by the end of the evening. It was evident from the opening notes of Homburg, this was going to be one extroardinary night and performance even though we all arrived hoping for one or two new songs.
Nicholas Dodd, a most impressive and commanding figure, was clearly a man who loves what he does and is obviously as fond of Procol Harum as the audience, who once again had flown in from many parts of the world to celebrate and recognise this indelible music in a manner we all know it deserves.
I don't think I can recall a time when Gary's voice was ever in question and tonight was no exception, well maybe one ... it was better than ever! Several of us had just had a conversation about how disappointing we found some of our favourite singers to have not continued to perform as well as we had once thought and there was our Commander singing in 'majestic' form.
As I looked about I was glad to see a packed house and that's when I realised I was on the edge of my seat and had no intentions of leaning back, preferring to occasionally grip and pound on the shoulders in front of me which happened to belong to Richard Beck. Sorry Richard! ;-)
The configuration of the hall and the placement of the choir above the accompanying orchestra and Procol Harum allowed the voices to surround this wonderful acoustic setting which are still reverberating in my head. It was only when Gary tried to interact with the audience that the audibles fell short, but his singing was nothing short of glorious! Which of course leads me to the band ... tonight we heard the true future of Procol Harum. This line-up not only presented themselves as a peak band, but united and powerful with all the strengths we have come to know and love throughout the Procol years.
Simple Sister, Man With a Mission, Conquistador and Butterfly Boys just to mention a few, exhibited outstanding punctuation from Geoff, Matt and Mark (whose top cymbal emanated a glow from where I sat) and needless to say complemented Maf and Gary note for note throughout the concert. And kudos to the percussionist on tambourine during Butterfly Boys, who for once wasn't an annoying distraction. That's always been a peeve of mine.
Repent Walpurgis has always had an impact on me. An absolute stunning performance and I delighted in being able to share in ovations which were obviously felt beyond applause.
During the intermission the lobby buzzed with commendations over the first half. It was quite apparent that the audience felt a special bond as if the band were playing 'especially' for them. I watched as grown men along with myself held back tears as the overwhelming essence enveloped everyone.
The highlight was Strangers in Space ... mesmerising, captivating and mind-blowing is all I can say. It was at this point I wished the evening would never end and tears flowed from the overwhelming beauty radiating around me.
There's no point in detailing every song as Mr Allison was quite thorough and spot on with everything I had noted.
The concert gained momentum from the time Procol Harum took the stage and continued to climax with each song culminating with one of my all time favourites: I'll Be Satisfied, orginally sung by Jackie Wilson, may very well have been an oblique commentary on the night. The audience may have arrived hoping to hear a new song or two or ten, but what we heard was a band well equipped to provide us with a future full of new material and hopefully VERY SOON.
Thank you Manchester for treating us to the opportunity of hearing your Hallé Orchestra and Choir along with our beloved Procol Harum – and thank you Procol Harum for an extroadinary and brilliant performance! And from one oblique song to another by Jackie Wilson ... That's Why (I Love You So)!