Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum, Dominion Theatre, London

Review by Peter at this excellent website • 25 November 2014

Procol Harum Dominion Theatre London 24 November 2014 • Friday Night is Music Night (for BBC Radio 2)

Last night Procol Harum performed for ‘Friday Night Is Music Night’. The performance will be broadcast shortly on Radio 2. This special event took place at the Dominion Theatre in London, and Procol Harum were accompanied by the sixty piece BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by David Firman and the forty voice Crouch End Festival Chorus.

The current line-up of the band is founder member, singer/pianist and composer Gary Brooker, Matt Pegg on bass, Geoff Dunn on drums, and Josh Phillips on keyboards and Hammond organ. Their usual guitarist Geoff Whitehorn had been taken unwell a few days ago and was replaced at very short notice by Dave Colquhoun of Rick Wakeman’s band who did exceptionally well, having learnt the set in two days, and who was himself suffering from a broken ankle and walking on crutches.

Procol Harum don't play in their home country very often these days, and it is many years since they have performed a symphonic set in the UK. The venue for this unique concert was the Dominion theatre, a beautiful 2,000 seater hall, which sits at the end of Oxford Street in Tottenham Court Road, and has for the past twleve years been the home of Queen’s We Will Rock You musical. The concert was sold out, with Procol Harum fans travelling from around the world to experience this performance.

The orchestra and choir filled the entire stage, and a small stage had been constructed for the band, just above the orchestra pit. The concert started at 7.30pm sharp, with the familiar chords of Homburg and the opening line “Your multilingual business friend, Has packed her bags and fled” filling the theatre and sending shivers down our spines. Songs like these were written to be performed with orchestral accompaniment, and Gary Brooker’s voice rang strong and clear above the majesty of the music. A perfect opening song.

This was followed by Simple Sister from 1971’s Broken Barricades, and Grand Hotel from the 1973 album of the same name. Gary explained how, at the [?] of the album’s release the band would stay in the best hotels, eat in the best restaurant, and travel in limousines, and joked that for this concert he came on the tube, ate a takeaway burger, and that they had to finish the show on time so that he could catch the last train home. This was followed by Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) which is also from Grand Hotel.

Next was Misssing Person, which is a Brooker solo track, and was performed by the band only, sans orchestra . Broken Barricades was then followed by Symphathy for the Hard of Hearing, which Gary dedicated to those who have fought for their country. The first set closed with an epic version of A Salty Dog which Gary dedicated to Alvin Stardust, Jack Bruce, and also to Geoff Whitehorn who was apparently texting his best wishes to the band from his hospital bed, and was surely there in spirit.

After a short interval the concert resumed. The second half started with a second attempt of the opening section of A Salty Dog, to remedy ‘a technical fault’ for the purposes of the recording for radio, although I am sure none of us had noticed any technical fault the first time round. This was followed by Wall Street Blues (band only), Something Magic, Nothing But the Truth and Into the Flood.  [running order here]

Then Gary announced the song that “started it all for us in 1967" which sounded just great, with a strong passionate vocal performance by Gary and Josh on Hammond, recreating the texture and sound of the Hammond solos to perfection. The song received an amazing reception from the audience with applause which seemed to go for ever and a standing ovation with the whole theatre on their feet. Amazing. The concert closed with An Old English Dream, and The Blink of an Eye (Gary explained how the song was written about 9/11, how the band would often talk to the New York fireman as they passed by the fire station, and how many of those men lost their lives).

The encore was Conquistador. A truly epic concert. It’s a shame that Procol Harum don’t play more often in this country. Gary joked at one point that he “wasn’t sure if the band would make their 50th”. I’m sure they will, and based on this performance they continue to go from strength to strength.

Procol dates in 2014 | Procol Harum dates with orchestra

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