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the Pale

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Procol Harum at The Royal Festival Hall, 3 March 2017

'Gary Takes a Trip' • by Gary Brooker

Gary Brooker writes to 'Beyond the Pale' (9 March 2017)

Gary Takes a Trip

On Friday 3 March Procol Harum had their sell-out concert at the Royal Festival Hall, South Bank, London, with full orchestra and choir.

My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen + psychiatrists, lawyers, Indian chiefs + doctors, Captains of Industry, teachers & students + men of the cloth (incl. tailors dressmakers & milliners), jockeys and musicians (incl. drummers & singers), unemployed and retired:  Gary Brooker Cmmdr BRF, MBE & Bar, reporting on events 03/03.

We were very excited about this concert and the programme which would hopefully cover the Fifty Years since the iconic year of 1967, with the emphasis on what we could do with the ‘big band’.

When we walked out on stage you could feel the warmth of the welcome from the largest gathering of Palers and other friends and supporters who had made a fantastic effort to be there with us on this great night. I was especially looking forward to a preview of three songs from the new Procol Harum album Novum:

  My Neighbourwith Sam Brown’s ukulele girls, to close first set

I Told on You – Procol soli, to open second half

& finally

Sunday Morning
– for which I had written a score for orchestra/choir, and imagined, but never heard or sung it.

Loads to look forward to, then!

I was so happy on leaving the stage for the interval that in the darkness of the night I didn’t see a step down, the ceiling flew away, and I fell from grace and hit the ground. In the words of the great Chas & Dave “Wallop! – he's gone down.”

I lay there for a moment sending messages around my body and brain doing a self-assessment, and thought I wasn’t too bad apart from the blood. A choir member and Franky were soon at my side and I said “Get me up and to the dressing room”, where a RFH medic gave me the once-over.

I was a bit bashed but I had not landed on my mouth – and having spread the impact incredibly evenly between both knees, nose, and forehead I told everybody I was fine and we should get back on. There was absolutely no way that wasn’t going to happen – the audience had made a great effort and I could only return the honour. I had in fact fallen on my right hand under my chest (broken bone) and it needed some ice-packs before I was ready, and a bandage round me bleedin’ ’ead !

As we went back on to a fantastic reception [picture above] I shouted to Josh, Matt & two Geoffs that my right hand was not good and could they ‘cover for me’. They did this with great art – the best Procol I’ve ever been with. There was plenty going on in the music with a hundred musicos and warblers givin’ it their best, and I just started singing with new strength and played the important piano notes with three or four digits.

Ah … Sunday Morning … I’d never sung it on stage and as the opening began I felt a surge of emotion: by the time it reached its previously unheard end, the wave of appreciation from the audience crashed over us, and we had arrived.

A final thank-you to Charlee & Chris London Ambulance Service, and all who sent their best wishes and thoughts about what was possibly Procol’s finest hour – that is, until the next.


Thanks, Paul Wolfe, for the photos on this page

Gary Brooker MBE | Procol gigs, 2017 | Setlist from Royal Festival Hall | Fans' goodwill messages | Metacarpal bulletin


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