Brooker, Dunn, Pegg, Phillips, Whitehorn
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|I Told on You
|When the band came on it was a surprise to see GB in pale suit and shades …which was taken by some as a covert reference to a well-known song, as well as to Ray Charles. Sunglasses in the darkness of a theatre might seem to some like a recipe for tumbling over or other physical mishap, but The Commander appeared undaunted.
|Briefly greeting the audience in Portuguese – following study and instruction over supper – GB launched into the first hit of the evening and the audience response was enthusiastic … elaborate piano break in the ‘flute’ spot and a great organ cadenza from Josh, playing a mint and hitherto-ungigged Hammond XK5. Maestro Whitehorn was also ‘rocking’ – as they say – the new Paisley-finished Tokai guitar that he received – after six months’ delay, partly due to bureaucracy regarding the import of ‘posh wood’ – just one day before leaving for 2019’s US gigs and which consequently wasn’t road-ready in time.
|‘We will stay in the European Union’ announced Gary, who also clarified the longevity of the band by specifying ‘We’ve been going ‘L’ years in Roman’. On this song the organ came up in the mix and stayed up. The piece was well-received by the large Coliseum audience; not quite every seat was filled, but it’s an octagonal auditorium and the stage isn’t in the middle, so it’s understandable that not all the restricted-view seats were occupied.
|Still There'll be More
|This wonderful number was announced in relation to the 2018 tour backdrop, still in use and looking great. The lighting at this show was varied and generally very apt … green laser shafts matched the ‘sing in the forest’ lyric, which was sung with great passion. Everyone clearly enjoying the song; fantastic guitar work from GW, the non-pareil. Matt – smiling enough, all evening, for two people at least – is introduced to the crowd as ‘looking trim and slim’.
|You Can't Say That
|Introducing this first selection from the new album, and mentioning the Procol shop out front, GB reasoned that ‘all wives should buy Novum for their husbands, and all husbands should buy it for their wives … and give it to their grandchildren.’ This suggestion was taken to heart … business at the cash-only stall was extremely brisk as the Portuguese audience hoovered up the Esoteric re-releases, until now not available in their country. You Can’t Say That was taken at a demanding lick, and highlighted the nimble brilliance of Maestro Pegg. Both rhythmical ‘phases’ of this song swung excitingly.
|The Devil Came from Kansas
|This fifty-year-old number was warmly applauded from the outset. GW and JP took the backing vocals, and the first guitar solo in particular was terrific … shades of Buddy Guy in the tone and phrasing. Geoff Dunn’s little break before the final verse was impeccably tight and surprising. One has to wonder how it is that GW can find such varied, dramatic, shapely and distinctive paths through the uncharacteristically repetitive and minimal changes that conclude this number … it’s a marvel.
|Great fun introducing this song, with shouted suggestions from the hall in various languages, Gary inventing some Estonian to add to the mix and offering ‘Sontag Montag’ as his German translation. This was the most-requested number at the stall during the interval and it’s easy to see why: the power of the arrangement, as it grows imperceptibly from acorn to oak, the bluesy ‘acoustic’ interventions from Geoff’s second guitar of the evening, the deft and evocative orchestrations from Josh’s synth, the Hammond blending plangently with the Montage’s horns, and the marvellous lead vocal … all splendid. .
|Straight into this song without preamble … an unusually early organ entry in the Cool Jerk section … Mediterranean ‘mandolins’ par excellence in the build-up. We went into the break with a strong impression of bonhomie and rapport among the players, and the audience was buzzing. Kudos to the customer who requested a CD at the stall by singing the Simple Sister riff to ensure the English staff understood what he wanted. Kudos also to our good friend Antonio Alfaiate who stood by, discreetly helping out with any linguistic problems; and nice to have Prof. George Lovell in play, signing copies of his two inimitable Procol memoirs for the punters.
|Bringing Home the Bacon
|Crisp and emphatic, with the typical little solo inserts (the drum one being outstanding). The two fretmen had an entertaining little panto moment as they doubled the Grabham lick following ‘loaded, bloated curse.’ This was the first of three numbers from Portugal’s runaway 1973 best-seller, Grand Hotel : all were received ardently.
|Fires (Which Burnt Brightly)
|Spontaneous applause as this Grand Hotel favourite started. In one of a number of mild ‘vocal remixes’ that decorated the evening, Gary sang ‘won the day’ in an unusual spot, and deftly supplied a rhyming line, ‘and corridors pray’ … . The Dunn drumming, during the instrumental passages, continues to astonish. Lots of complicated manoeuvres for Josh, playing both keyboards: Leslie, presets, drawbars, sustain pedal, programme changes … but close your eyes and you’d never imagine the shenanigansinvlved in creating the smooth soundscape for which he is reponsibe.
|Shine on Brightly
|Magnificent! Guitar and organ play the verse-three quaver ostinato together … very effective.
|‘Bankers, lawyers … the real low people of the earth’ said Gary … before jesting that the back fifteen rows were full of such practitioners. Some new scalar twiddles from the Montage, and some relentless hi-hat punishment. The reggae intonations of verse three caused a little onstage merriment; strong second voice from Geoff W. ‘UK and Portugal, over three hundred years since we last had an argument,’ said Gary, who went on to rationalise the ongoing Brexit debacle as being a reflection simply of the way ‘we don’t like Brussells. Have you been there? Boring place … all waffles and pomfrits’.
|The habitual preamble, extolling the menus and accommodation of former times, and deprecating contemporary arrangements, included an hilarious harangue about a puzzling item present in both lunchtime and evening catering backstage at the Lisbon venue: something like ‘I wanted two lobsters and a steak, and I got the claws of an armadillo’. Matt and Geoff’s ‘fish and chips’ instead of ‘Hotel Ritz’ was of course another dietary anomaly; and during the delicate violin solo, they sobbed on each other’s shoulders … a trope we’d seen developing during the recent American dates. The tango passage floated with a lovely lilt, generated and sustained by the piano. Before the show Gary Brooker had amended his tour lanyard, deleting ‘musician’ and substituting ‘vocalist’; but this song gave us no cause to share this underestimation of his piano prowess.
|GB mentioned the longevity of this line-up, but not the fact that 80% of it (lacking only Geoff Dunn) had played Procol’s last Portuguese shows (May 1993) when Josh was the fill-in organist only. This returned the audience’s attention to Novum. ‘Never be jealous of your neighbour … you don’t know what could be wrong with him’ was the preamble to this merry piece of silliness, which ended with mimed shots (corresponding to the pistol-shot in the recording booth which Dennis Weinreich removed from the Novum mix, leaving only the gurgling Brooker laughter). ‘I haven’t had so much fun since my grandmother caught her tits in the mangle,’ said the distinguished vocalist.
|A Salty Dog
|As so often in a Procol show, the mood changed abruptly, Gary’s voice catching as he mentioned ‘those who watch us from above’. A Salty Dog started with a super-long helping of seagulls from the guitar, and was received with heavy applause, whooping, and a standing ovation.
|‘We’re from England … a small island up the road’, Gary reminded the crowd, before Josh kicked off the penultimate number. These days the Montage creates the string ostinato, and the piano replaces the trumpet line … interesting, and quite different in flavour from the established stage version. Geoff and Matt mimed watching a firework display, their head-gestures synched to the glissando climaxes of Josh’s organ solo.
|A Whiter Shade of Pale
|No preamble, straight into this splendid finale. Lots of vocal reverb (Bunny Warren, on FoH sound, was fresh from the Loreena McKennitt tour!). The show was pretty loud now … I think he nudges the faders aloft in the final phases of the concert. The first solo break was a piano and organ improv, two verses were sung, and by the end there was as much music from the audience all around as there was from the stage. A most memorable concert.
|From Procol Harum
|from Shine on Brightly
|From A Salty Dog
|from Broken Barricades
|From Grand Hotel
|From Exotic Birds and Fruit
|from Procol's Ninth
|From Something Magic
|From The Prodigal Stranger
|from The Well's on Fire
|Wonderful show ... song notes coming soon