Procol Harum

the Pale

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Josh Phillips's triumphant show at Ewhurst Park, Surrey

Charity gig on Saturday 14 June 2014 • RC from BtP

Photos will follow!


Prostate Cancer Research announcement


It had been a long wait – about an hour past the expected opening – and the restless crowd was largely standing in a marsh caused by the horrendously heavy storms that had set everything – including of course the Polo match – back. No announcement had been made, and the slow-handclaps were starting … but the sun had come out and miraculously there was no further rain.




Brief ABBA medley

Performed with backing track: a camp, cheesy, really quite annoying cameo from Susie and Zoe – who (luckily) came back promptly (sans glam attire and cod-Swedish accents) as the Rock Chicks and provided five-star backing vocals for pretty well every artist


Rock Chicks

I Got the Music in Me

Performed with great panache by the lovely Susie Webb (lead vocal). House Band, with four-piece horn section.


Sam Tanner


This excellent feature for Sam Tanner wasn’t on the official running-order, but he’s an impressive vocal talent as well as a cracking pianist, and it was well-received.




Vic Reeves (increasingly strange and off-the-wall as the show progressed) introduced the next act


Alvin Stardust


‘Where do they dig these people up from?’ said a Ferrari-owner standing near the front. But when Mr Stardust started to sing, large helpings of humble pie got swallowed: an excellent rock voice and great rapport with the crowd and the House Band. Nice guitar solo from Jim Cregan on Pretend (which made good use of two pianos as well)


 Alvin Stardust

Johnny B Goode




Alvin Stardust introduces Nik Kershaw


Nik Kershaw

The Riddle


This kicked off with snappy snare-work from the indefatigable Geoff Dunn (well, he was pretty shattered by the end of the evening, but with very good reason). I hadn’t thought about NK since about 1984, and wouldn’t have recognised him (he no longer sports that extravagant mane): but it was good to hear these strongly melodic hits again.


Nik Kershaw

Wouldn't It Be Good


Kershaw came forward somewhat humbly from his backup-guitar position in the House Band and must have been heartened by the blanket audience sing-along with his power choruses.


Judy Tzuke


Living on the Coast

Judy Tzuke boldly led with an unfamiliar song; still a great voice! The Rock Chicks were reinforced by two young girls who – at a guess – carried plenty of Tzuke genes, and who were obviously enjoying it greatly. Dave Bronze (whose impeccable playing was one of the star features of the whole concert) shifted to a five-string bass for the Tzuke numbers.


Judy Tzuke

Stay with Me Till Dawn

A great sigh went up when this moody classic started: the House Band exactly captured the vibe of the original and it was all over too soon for the audience. What a great song … and the Procoloid chord-inversions didn’t go unnoticed.




Vic Reeves and Angelos Epithemiou offered a most peculiar introduction to the next artist … strange wigs, off-beat tales of when they were roadies to the greats …


Mike Rutherford

I Can't Dance

Though Mike Rutherford was well received and played nice guitar, with the House Band, one’s eyes were drawn to his charismatic ‘Mechanics’ vocalist Tim Howar who (with all his music theatre background, and with a naughty twinkle in both eyes) was the irrepressible showman, working the crowd to tremendous effect.


Mike Rutherford

Over My Shoulder


Mike Rutherford



John Parr


Oh Well

'John Parr Acoustic Solo' was what the setlist specified. It was a great treat to hear the solo in question, though: Peter Green’s Oh Well. Parr attacked his guitar with a kind of hooligan gusto but great musical subtlety too: a very watchable combination.


John Parr


St Elmo's Fire House Band

This song worked very well indeed with the House Band. Cognoscenti in the audience needed no reminding of its Procol connection … read here, if in doubt


John Lodge

Just a Singer in a Rock n Roll Band House Band


John Lodge cut a rakish figure, singing and wielding his bass in devil-may-care fashion in this famous song, which he himself wrote. Never having seen, nor wanted to see, the Moody Blues, I was heartened by the energy and soul of the piece … which was then somewhat undercut by the incomprehensibly popular NiWS, which has always struck me as a rather weedy affair. Sam Blue, who’d sung BVs up to this point, took the lead vocal, and Josh contributed some tasty Hammond. The audience absolutely loved it and there was much throat-ripping holleration of ‘love you’ and so on. So I have to admit I was very much the odd one out.


John Lodge

Nights in White Satin  




Vic Reeves came on to introduce Procol Harum. ‘The organist’s fingers are precision weapons of destruction’ was one of the less baffling things I recall his having said.


Procol Harum


Pandora’s Box


After a pause, and a few faces of note peeping round curtains, Procol took to the stage. Geoff D and Josh had of course already done a set’s worth of material; Geoff W and Matt seemed a bit bemused by the onstage mix (though Procol’s excellent Geoff Curtis was manning the board throughout the day, and had a very nice sound going in the park). Gary Brooker emerged in the red and black shirt-jacket he’d ‘first worn 47 years ago’ and explained that they’d looked through their repertoire to find polo-related songs, and ‘Wild horsemen ride …’ had been their best match. The four-man horn section didn’t come on until the end and there was an unexpectedly jazz-oriented trumpet solo in the typical flute-break position.


Procol Harum


Wall St. Blues


This song was also given a custom intro by GB, aimed at the well-heeled audience who had presumably not lost their money and their shoes. In fact shoes were less than useful standing in this much stagnant water: several times I thought of taking mine off and paddling, but it was just a bit too crowded to bend down and unlace. This performance contained the perfect guitar break, and no more exciting playing was heard the whole day.


Procol Harum


A Salty Dog


This famous anthem went down well, though there was a bit too much chat in the audience for some tastes. It was one of very few slow tunes heard on the day, and the Brooker breath-control (which had lapsed for an instant at the Dunkirk gig, as GB pointed out in his birthday speech at Freising) was completely back on form in the rousing conclusion.


Procol Harum


A Whiter Shade of Pale


This was taken very, very slowly: a daring and welcome departure from the template of the original recording. Huge cheers greeted the opening words! A guitar solo, and a piano solo immediately following, were additional points of variance from the original arrangement.


Procol Harum




Procol concluded their set … the longest of the whole day … with ‘a stallion song’, again supposedly chosen for the particular Polo-oriented audience. This went very well, the four man brass section giving a real punch and fire at the right moments … the right moments, because Josh (at the nearby Hammond) was unostentatiously giving them all the necessary cues. He also contributed a characteristically rapid Hammond break at the end.

Before the show a young man had asked Michel Birrel and me, ‘What is Procol Harum?’ having noticed the strange words on our tee-shirts. I guess he knows now. This was more than a cameo for the band: it was a showcase that cannot have done anything but win over many admirers.



Vic and Angelos Epithemiou

The comedians were back, this time with tales of Procol’s backstage behaviour. ‘They demand turnips,’ Vic Reeves insisted.


Kenney Jones and Friends

Every Little Bit Hurts

Kenney Jones, owner of the premises, prime mover of the event, and himself recovering from Prostate Cancer treatment, got a terrific reception as he took his place behind the other drum kit on stage (it didn’t sound as good as Mr Dunn’s kit, I thought, but he gave it an exciting thrashing nonetheless). His Small Faces pedigree came through strongly in this set, starting with a top-class performance by Mollie Marriott, daughter of the late Steve and inheritor of his peerless ability to sell a lyric to an audience.


Kenney Jones and Friends



Sam Blue sang this one, and Rick Wills on bass made a very energetic showing.


Kenney Jones and Friends

All or Nothing


This number (the Small Faces’ only chart-topping single) went really well, specially thanks to the contribution of the brass players.


Kenney Jones and Friends

Lazy Sunday


I’m amazed Lazy Sunday wasn’t a No. 1 single as well. This was a gloriously exciting and funny presentation of a well-loved song. As I recall Vic Reeves took a part in this also, and the twin keyboards made a lovely job of the floaty, trippy chords.


Kenney Jones and Friends

Three-Button Hand Me Down

Dave Bronze was back on bass for this one, leading it off and playing with great style (in his Elvis Costello-influenced hat). Mollie M sang it, and there was a good Cregan guitar solo.


Kenney Jones and Friends

Stay with Me


Mick Hucknall came on as lead vocalist, and Damon Hill was the guitarist for this great song.


Kenney Jones and Friends



Hucknall also performed this fine Ronnie Lane number … this version of the Jones Gang was excellent value, and played their hearts out. I could have listened to a lot more. Itchycoo Park next time, perhaps?


Jeff Beck

Little Wing

Jeff Beck was accompanied by Sam Tanner on piano, Geoff Dunn, Dave Bronze and Josh Phillips  … a more Procolian line-up than one could have hoped for, and was consistently brilliant, as might be expected. Even the people expecting to see Tal Wilkenfeld on bass, or Vinnie Colaiuta percussing, could not possibly have been disappointed.


Jeff Beck

A Day in the Life


This was done in JB’s patent instrumental format, yet with a surprisingly literal nod to the anarchic orchestral climbing climax from the 1967 Beatles’ record. It was spellbinding stuff, though it doesn’t quite get my guitarist of the night award, inasmuch as Beck was showcasing … leading the band, not negotiating with its other forces as Geoff Whitehorn did in the awesome Wall Street Blues. But it was still magnificent playing.


Jeff Beck

Wild Thing


Wild Thing brought out the air guitarists in force. Grungy and primitive, it seemed a bit disappointing after Hendrix and the Beatles … but it was still great. And Mick Hucknall was a fine front man, stylish, utterly relaxed, and probably oozing sex-appeal to a particular contingent in the crowd!


The Who

Can't Explain


The Who – presumably Daltrey and Townshend – had disdained to rehearse, so Josh Phillips had rehearsed the House Band without them, and it all came together in these few magnificent numbers. Roger was twirling his mic ‘just like yesterday’ and Pete was windmilling as ever (though I didn’t notice any scissor-jumping).


The Who


The brass joined in for Substitute, as did almost everyone in the audience


The Who

Kids Are Alright


‘For God’s sake don’t give him a guitar’ said Pete, as the singer plugged in an electro-acoustic (assisted by an improbably glamorous guitar technician!). Daltrey got his own back with a deliciously waspish aside at the end of the number.


The Who

Pinball Wizard

The guitar opening of this next song was the spine-chilling moment of the evening. Everyone on stage could obviously feel it too. The Who and the House Band sounded as though they’d been playing together for years (nice to see Bronzie getting a well-deserved handshake, and Josh a name-check). Sadly, though, the guitarist cut off the coda: ‘I think that’s enough of that …’


The Who


This slightly less familiar song had some very nice singing from PT, and rounded off a very exciting and memorable set from a marvellous ensemble.



Only Rock n Roll


The climactic all-on-stage number was of course bound to be an anti-climax, but it was still a lot of fun, and although there was lots of visible telepathy of the ‘where the hell are we?’ sort going on on stage, it didn’t come anywhere near derailing. The non-House Band Procols were not in evidence (Geoff W was still backstage) but most of the other performers joined in and concluded a very happy if sodden day’s entertainment.

Photographs will doubtless follow; and one would could also fill a bulging web-page by compiling the various tributes to musical director Josh Phillips that appeared on Facebook and in other forums in the few days since the show. He may not have slept much the night before, but he proved himself the absolute master of his craft, having marshalled and rehearsed a team of formidable talents, and delivered a subtle and musical and highly varied programme, in a very worth cause … and all for a paltry Ł20 !

It was muddy … very muddy … leaving the field, or trying to. I got to bed at 4.30; tired, but very happy.

Procol dates in 2014 | Another review of the same event

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