Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum at the Deutschlandhalle, Berlin

Pete Bewers writes for BtP

26 October 1973
I first really started to appreciate Procol Harum when I was living in Germany in the early 1970s of course I knew them before that and was well-acquainted with their hits, such as Homburg, A Whiter Shade of Pale, etc, but it was not until I was went to Germany that I came across people who actually were in possession of any of their albums.

A Procol album was virtually de rigueur in any self-respecting German album-collection in those days. I imagine their popularity was partly due to Keith Reid's enigmatic lyrics, which appealed to the "Brechtian" side of the German psyche ... and partly to the almost bombastic style of some Procol numbers, such as The Devil Came from Kansas and Piggy Pig Pig, which appealed to what I might term the "Wagnerian" side (of the German psyche).

Certainly, their album Home was received very well over there its "Gothic" feel was way ahead of its time and almost certainly had quite an influence on much German music of the 80s and 90s. Procol Harum's mix of delicate lyrics and crashing "heavy metal" (before the term became fashionable) instrumental backing was unique.

The concert at the Deutschlandhalle this was at the height of their most creative period (shortly after the release of the album Grand Hotel) was no disappointment, neither for the (mainly) German audience, nor for myself. They played many of their most famous "anthems": Homburg and Whiter Shade, as well as Salty Dog, another favourite ... and, of course, Conquistador.

These quieter, more introspective songs were interspersed by the more raucous numbers. Especially, I remember them belting out Piggy Pig Pig which got the crowd going wild. I am not sure if Robin Trower was still with them then I know I saw him playing with his own band just a month or so later in the Round House (London) but either way I definitely remember a very good rendition of Piggy ... with soaring guitar as a backdrop to the "God's aloft the seas are ra-a-a-ging"... etc.

I seem to have a recollection that, at concert's end, more than one encore was demanded ... whistles ... slow hand-clapping etc. Eventually, for the very last number, I recall Gary Brooker coming back alone ... to belt out the Little Richard number Great Balls of Fire. That perplexed the audience somewhat it was well-performed, but not exactly what this particular audience had expected of Procol Harum. There were no more calls for an encore. I almost thought Gary did it deliberately ... just to be able to get away without leaving a disappointed audience behind but perhaps they often ended up with that song. Whatever! Clearly Mr Brooker was a Little Richard fan, though! He seemed to really enjoy himself doing it.

Thanks, Pete Bewers, for this recollection, written 4 March 2002

More Procol concerts at BtP
Procol's 1973 tour dates
Setlist from this gig [not entirely tallying with the recollections above]

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