Procol Harum

the Pale

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Commander’s Log : a Star Trek Return to Finland

Charlie Allison (text and pictures) for BtP: 22 July 2010


Gary Brooker (laulu, piano), Geoff Whitehorn (kitara), Josh Phillips (urut),

Matt Pegg (basso), Geoff Dunn (rummut) 


This Scottie was “beaming” and “up” after Procol Harum’s triumphal return to headline at the 26th Keitelejazz Festival, one year after Gary Brooker’s rib-cracking misfortune in falling off a pile of logs – well there are a lot of trees in Finland and they’re (usually) the perfect vantage point for photos.   The audience greeted the band with huge affection & enthusiasm and were rewarded with a long set, a brilliant performance and a unique finishing treatment of their signature song.  More of that later.

It was quite a trek up to Äänekoski, but the journey was eased enormously by a new air route from Edinburgh to Tampere , a comfortable 120 mile drive from the venue.    The Keiteleejazz Festival has been running for ages and, though its primary focus is jazz, they have booked a number of rock luminaries over the years – in fact The Yardbirds were also on the bill, supporting Procol Harum tonight.


Procoholics were thin on the ground – I recognised only Jens and one of his Norweigian buddies, though I did see a few PH shirts worn.  There were however a lot of mozzies – your correspondent chose a well-sprayed golf hat to keep the blighters at bay!





The evening started with a great Finnish band – a 2010 bringing-together of the legendary Finnish guitarist Heikki Silvennoinen with the Maijanen Band, featuring the laconic Ray Davies-like Pave Maijanen and a great rhythm section playing a number of Cream and other R&B covers.  Badge and White Room (with an extended drum solo) were particularly powerful.  Heikki had tremendous technical skills allied to great charisma and played every one of his five guitars during a powerful hour long set.  He was the first of three great guitarists we were to see tonight, and could arguably be “the best ginger (haired) guitarist in the world?”   The crowd loved them.  A good start.  Retired to one of the two beer tents to enjoy fine Finnish lager and a traditional Finnish meal – doner kebab and salad!  




I stayed there for the start of The Yardbirds, who were preceded by some clever radio clips from the pirate radio days introducing their music. The band itself was that "ideal blend of youth and experience" – the originals Chris Dreja and Jim McCarty played alongside three very young guys – Andy Mitchell (vocals/harmonica), David Smale (bass) and the quite awesome Ben King (who keeps alive the traditions for legendary guitarists in this band – Messrs Clapton, Beck and Page).The set contained all their hits, which were a strange mix of R&B and psychedelia (remember that wailing backing vocal sound?) and we were treated to Heart Full of Soul and For Your Love, as well as a great four-man drum/percussion solo   Again the crowd loved them and insisted on an encore (the band knew they had over-run and tried to stop themselves … well not too hard!)   Drummer Jim McCarty did have the grace to acknowledge that Procol Harum were due on (now) and told the crowd they were about to see “one of the great British bands”.


A fractious-looking set-up followed with our crew looking decidedly dischuffed at the tardiness of the Yardbirds crew breaking up their stuff.  But at 10.40pm it was time for the main event.  A blonde lady gave a two-minute introduction with only four words I could recognize – Gary, Brooker, Procol and Harum – then the lads trooped on to a most enthusiastic welcome from the now-filled performance tent for this, their “marquee” band.


A brief “Glad to be here” from the hatted Gary, then straight into Shine on Brightly and then Homburg. Standing on the rail at the front I felt the punch of every bass drum kick and heard it all with perfect clarity and power.  Many of my neighbours had decided to insert earplugs, dished out free from bubblegum dispensers on the tent-poles – maybe the Finns have an exaggerated view on health and safety?


My notekeeping throughout the set was brief and awkward (and not scoring well for legibility in the morn!) but I kept the setlist (as did Jens!) and made an occasional annotation when appropriate, which I share with you now. 


The BtP website was mentioned with a warning there was a Norwegian in the crowd, somewhere.  Gary remembered the 60s looking for the Northern Lights, dropping some acid and meeting 'the great norse God Valhalla' ... then we were into a spirited Beyond the Pale.  Geoff by now was best buds with everyone in the front five rows, soloing in his bright tie-die shirt which blended in beautifully with the front-of-stage flowers. One guitar sufficed for Mr Whitehorn the whole evening (the pale blue one if you must know … sorry, I don’t do guitar tech)    A 'new song' One Eye on the Future followed; (by the way there was no One-Eye in Europe this week) then An Old English Dream (how does this start, asks Gary!)


Gary then asked if  “any of you were here last year?” and told them that  “We think you're the best audience in the world … so we came back”   The next one was to feature Geoff (“not on vocals” he protested – an obvious reference to 2009) and we were into The Devil Came from Kansas, a thundering success for both Geoffs really.


A wonderful Grand Hotel followed, stately and unhurried – one of about ten songs tonight that the audience obviously had a particular fondness for.


Gary explained the band had just returned from an American tour supporting Jethro Tull – “remember him, the guy with one leg who plays the flute?” so we had two American songs, Wall Street Blues and The Blink of an Eye, with their contrasting messages of the decade past.  These have become fully developed in the live set and allow the entire band to flourish and blend.


Hooray!  Robert's Box, always a favourite for this doctor doctor.   I just love the fun of this, though I have yet to hear the band do the transition to the ending perfectly, like what it is on the record.


"Being at a jazz festival, I thought we should do some blues"… but not what I would expect – it was the blue moods of Strangers in Space we were to hear, with a wonderful Matt Pegg solo, but everyone doing well to make this a standout track again.


The contemporary rap War is Not Healthy (I am starting to like this) is followed by a new song – Yours if you Want It – perhaps a song for late middle-age (surely not autobiographical?).  I was asking myself if this was Brooker/Reid but Jens tells me it was done in the rarities show in London.  It did however contain the phrase which might have made it appropriate for this festival -- 

“Two left feet.  Dance like a spaz.   The music I like… is jazz ...” . A fun song in the great Procol tradition.


Pandora's Box got a cheer of recognition then we heard the masterpice A Salty Dog.. “Are there any 'bus issues?” asked Gary.  “Here is a song for walking home to – watched over by those from above”    Naturally both were played to perfection and,  after a truly storming Conquistador as "Gracias to all our amigos",  the band went off to ecstatic acclaim.


Whisky Train was the first encore song, with Geoff Dunn given a chance to shine, before the unique and unexpected gift to this faithful crowd – though only a few of us recognized what we were hearing was both beautiful –  and indeed unique.   A three verse AWSoP, but with a great guitar solo from Geoff between verses one and two.   I heard Cliff Goodwin doing something similar (but shorter) with Joe Cocker (in a band with BJ Wilson on the drums) but this was a first for me with Procol  (and sound engineer Graham confirmed he hadn’t heard this before either).


The band by now were on their third set of introductions – Gary insisted each play a little signature segment, before Geoff predicted that Gary would live to be 164!


Ten minutes short of two hours, the band departed, much lauded and loved by this large crowd of friendly Finns.  I departed too, hugely heartened by the performance and by the surprise extra ending to the evening.  And no midge bites either!


A hot airless night in my cheap hotel, but the morning brought a trip down to Helsinki by car then train and from there I am writing this for you now.  The band (and Jens and indeed Roland) move on to the next venue – a free concert in Bergamo.  Now how did a Scotsman miss out on this?!


I will send some photos when I can get the technology … possibly when I get home on Sunday.   I will be back with Procol Harum in Copenhagen in January.



Thanks, Charlie


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