Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum • Kurpark Bad Krozingen, Germany

Frans Steensma's review, for BtP • 6 August 2010

 Of course the lovely summer evening helped, but it was the combination of superb team playing by Procol Harum and the sound created by the technicians and roadies which made this concert a truly memorable occasion. The gig at the Kurpark in Bad Krozingen was an open-air event so Gary Brooker and co were very lucky that there was not a breath of wind in the air. Every spectator was delighted by the sound coming from the stage. Every instrument sounded as clean as a whistle, every sung word hit you right in the face.

From the first screeching notes in Shine on Brightly you couldn’t help but admire the balance in the sound and the clarity of the individual instruments. SoB used to be a great opener, and it still is! At the start of Homburg the crowd gave a round of applause in recognition and another loud one (of appreciation) at the end. Beyond the Pale was rounded off so well that the finish was done twice (with the 'Oy!' shouted as loud as possible). Also a well-deserved thank you from GB to the website of the same name. Then Gary apologised to the audience for not speaking German, but introduced Geoff Whitehorn [who speaks fluent German] as the one who could help out: GB asked him, ‘Can you speak ancient Greek too?’ To which Geoff answered, ‘No, not any more…’.

Pandora’s Box was highlighted by a nice piano solo by GB, followed by One Eye on the Future with Josh Phillips’s organ to the fore. Rarely has Josh’s organ sounded better than on this night. And his playing has improved too: with great confidence he played all his parts magnificently. Geoff closed OEotF with an intricate solo.

Gary remarked that some Procol songs are so old, that some of you [the younger ones in the audience] weren’t even born when we recorded them … ‘Did you know that we have four decades in this band? One in his thirties [Matt Pegg]), two in their forties [Josh Phillips + Geoff Dunn], one in his fifties [Geoff Whitehorn] and one in his sixties [GB]. But some things never change ... 'Psychiatrists and lawyers destroying mankind, driving them crazy and stealing them blind’ [the opening words to As Strong as Samson]. The tempo was slowed down so the great Keith Reid words to this Exotic Birds and Fruit song hit even harder. After the usual intro by GB about the prophetic nature of The Well’s [World’s] on Fire and one if its songs (Wall Street Blues) from 2003 the first real highlight of the evening was there: Geoff’s very inventive solo helped WSB soar to an even higher level than it already had. Definitely the best-performed song of the evening.

Grand Hotel showed that even the duet vocals by Geoff and Matt (‘The nights we dine at Hotel Ritz’) sounded better on this night than ever before, as did the guitar-produced violin sounds by Geoff and the double electric piano playing by GB and JP. During their Dutch tour in 2007 GB sang every night during Grand Hotel: 'these Dutch girls like to fight', but tonight he stuck to French girls, but finished in his best German: ‘die Nächte wir schlafen in Hotel Grand'. This was followed by the Auden-inspired words of An Old English Dream, in which Geoff showed that next to his blistering solo in WSB he’s also capable of a very cleanly-played solo.

The loss to Germany ('The Gay Boys…') in the World Championship Football in South Africa in July still hurt, as GB pointed out. ‘But we can still beat you at Rugby!’

Barnyard Story [what a great surprise that this Home song is now, since last year, a regular in their set] was extended with another lovely Whitehorn solo. The up-tempo Robert’s Box benefited from great work by the lighting technician. On the long epic-like version of Strangers in Space there was neat interplay between GB and GW, plus a bass solo by Matt Pegg for which, afterwards, GB gave him a lot of praise, calling him El Basso. Simple Sister was as aggressive as usual, with a slightly different guitar solo and a lot of enthusiastic clapping by the audience. After a comic interlude between GB and John Magner [roadie]  Procol Harum ended with a sparkling A Salty Dog, with sensitive playing by Geoff Dunn.

'Zugabe, Zugabe!' came from the crowd so loudly that the band couldn’t finish their cigarette break. Before the encore started, GB told us about Dunn’s misfortune, when he recently broke his collar-bone in a bike accident. ‘Therefore we now play a quick song!…’ Conquistador followed, with cheery trumpet tones by Josh from his keyboard. Geoff Dunn played his part brilliantly. AWSoP, highlighted by a surprising Whitehorn solo, meant farewell to another great Procol concert.

When will be the next?           

Procol Harum concerts in 2010: index page | Other Procol writings by Frans Steensma

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