Procol Harum

the Pale

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'They are out of hibernation'

Max Bell in the London Evening Standard, 14 August 1995

Procol Harum, Shepherd's Bush Empire, 12th August

There seems to be no particular reason why Procol Harum have reconvened to perform their first British tour in a decade; but then, why not? Gary Brooker's outfit were never part of a scene. In the Sixties they were hardly an average pop group; in the Seventies, though tarred with the progressive rock brush, they didn't fit in with Genesis or Pink Floyd. Thunderclap Newman, maybe.

Whatever the motivation, Southend-born [sic] Brooker was in amiable mood and splendid voice, his American naval commander's jacket and white-as-spume [hair] half tied back into a braided ponytail betokening a welcome whiff of eccentric show business.

Playing customised electric piano Brooker traded sumptuous melodies with the other sole surviving Harum original, the unobtrusive Matthew Fisher, who looked like a computer operator, but manipulated his organ with panache, as it were. A largely male following of a certain age hung off every syllable, a fair achievement when one considers the depth of songs like Conquistador and Homburg, all of which emerged from their 20-year hibernation none the worse for wear.

The evening was better than an elaborate exercise in retrospection and was far from being a slick nostalgia package. During an old-fashioned equipment breakdown that prompted off-stage cries of "Fire!" Brooker embarked on an inconsequential anecdote about setting fire to his trousers with a smouldering pipe at his sister-in-law's wedding anniversary. Not very rock and roll.

The eternally durable A Whiter Shade Of Pale - John Lennon's favourite song of 1967 and an apparent influence on I Am The Walrus - closed the main business with the singer pondering its ineffable nature. "A lot of people have asked - what does it mean? Well, what does any of it mean?" he chuckled. I look forward to with interest to Procol Harum's being rediscovered by Blur and Paul Weller.

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Setlist for this concert

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Review from The Times

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