Procol Harum

the Pale

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'Rick of Ages'

Alastair Wright in The Advertiser (Croydon), July 1974

[Excerpts and is there anything here that might have put The Worm and the Tree into Procol Harum's heads?]

Some 15,000 fans were at Crystal Palace on Saturday for eight hours of rock, culminating in Rick Wakeman's rockophonic work, Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

Even with a standard size Symphony Orchestra on stage the Crystal Palace Concert Bowl looks crowded. But for an astonishing couple of hours on Saturday the stage had to bear an army of 159 recruits, plus massed electronic equipment ...

Narrating excerpts from Jules Verne's novel the inspiration for the work was David Hemmings, pompously perched in a kind of wicker throne stage right. His presence is worth recording because he is well-known, but not because he performed especially well on this occasion. He read as if he were a primary school teacher addressing a class of seven-year-olds ...

On the whole the event was less exciting musically than it has been on previous occasions. Early on there was plenty of pleasantly soporific twangling but very little energy or guts ... particularly on a cool day, what the fans want is music that's wild, anarchic, uncontained and aggressive. It's got to liberate the senses for the grand synthesising finale which gets it all together again. This show had the climax but it missed the build-up.

Except, that is, for Procol Harum a tremendous band grossly underrated in this country. In their first London concert for more than a year, they shattered the summertime blues with a forceful rhythmic set that had the fans on their feet chanting for more.

Most of their numbers ached with nostalgia, but several contained, too, an angry gravelly quality which gave the music its powerful and gutsy urgency. Conquistador, Power Failure, with its spectacular drum solo, and their latest composition, Butterfly Boys, were all superb.

This mood, unfortunately, was not maintained by the diminutive Leo Sayer ... his undoubted talent is coupled with such an arrogant stage manner ...

Still, Garden Party seven was a real rock occasion, which alone is something to be grateful for. Everything ran sweetly and the fans went home happy.

Illustration from Sounds (13 July 1974) courtesy of Per Wadd Hermansen

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