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the Pale

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Rhythm Kings in Hamburg

Jens reports from the Rhythm Kings' concert, 11 April 2000

Jens Anders Ravnaas

Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings: Gary Brooker, piano/vocals; Graham Broad, drums; Bill Wyman, bass; Georgie Fame, organ / vocals; Albert Lee, lead guitar / vocals; Martin Taylor, lead guitar; Terry Taylor, rhythm guitar; Beverley Skeete, vocals; Janis Hoyte, vocals; Frank Mead, horns; Nick Payn, horns.

Getting to Hamburg from Kristiansand in Norway is not that hard. And Hamburg was the nearest town the Rhythm Kings were playing on their Spring 2000 European tour. So my wife and I decided to take a few days off and go for a trip to Hamburg. The boat trip from Kristiansand to Denmark is just over four hours, and then we hit the road for a seven-hour drive to Hamburg. We arrived Monday evening, and easily found the hotel we had booked. The hotel was suitably named Hotel Norge ('Norge' is the Norwegian for Norway). I had made reservations through Hotel Insider on the internet, and was delighted to see that the bookings were OK, including my reservations for a carpark. We had Chinese dinner in a nearby restaurant that evening, and ended the night with a few drinks in the hotel bar.

Tuesday was the day for the concert, but we started out with some shopping in downtown Hamburg. I must admit I easily get tired of shopping, so I ended up in a pub while my wife conquered the shops.

I had booked my concert tickets through a telephone call to the venue, Fabrik. They didn't even require a credit-card to secure my booking, so I was eager to get confirmation that my reservation was fine, and get hold of the tickets. So, after shopping, we asked a taxi-driver to take us to Fabrik and wait outside while I collected my tickets. I went for the main door, but it was closed and a sign said I should try the last door outside to the left. Which I did, and found a door with no signs. I entered what was obviously a back door and found some stairs. It all looked somewhat strange, and I was beginning to wonder what kind of place this was. On the second floor I found an office where I asked for my tickets. The girl in the office found my name on the list, and I got my two tickets. Fabrik might look strange, but they had control over the bookings. On the way out I could see down to the concert venue where the roadies had started installing all the equipment for the night's concert. I could see that they would probably need another couple of hours before the soundcheck. No point in waiting for that. The taxi took us back to the hotel, and we prepared for the concerts by relaxing in the bar.

Fabrik is, as the name suggests, an old factory, and from the outside the building looks to be in a bad shape. On the ceiling is a huge crane. I wish I had taken a picture of it, but I didn't want to draw attention to the fact that I had brought a camera, and after the concert it was too dark. When we arrived at about eight (the concert was scheduled for nine), there already was a huge line assembled. And once inside, we could see that the house was sold to full capacity. Inside Factory looked more like a barn, but with galleries going three storeys high. My wife told me she had seen some old machine parts when she went up to the second floor, probably memories from the time the building was used to produce some (to us) unknown goods.

The beer line was very long, so I decided to survive the concert without anything to drink although the room was very hot. We found a place in the crowd, close to the stage but not too close for a good sound, and waited for the concert to start. The support act was a German band whose name I have forgotten, but they played some kind of folk-rock music and the lineup included flute, violin and upright bass.

After the support act my wife said she could not take more of the heat and all the smoke. She also ins not very tall, so she couldn't see much either. She decided to move to the second floor where the crowd was not so heavy. I didn't want to move from my position, so we agreed to meet after the concert.

 "Hello Hamburg. We played here two years ago and thought it was about time we came back. So, it's nice to have you back here again. We're going to have a nice time, and hope you will too," said Bill Wyman upon entering the stage. And that's all we heard him say that night. For an old Rolling Stone and the star of the show, he really kept  a low profile. For the rest of the concert he stood smiling behind the other musicians, playing some fantastic bass lines and looked like he really enjoyed himself. He was never the front man in the Rolling Stones, and now he wasn't even a frontman in his own band. Gary Brooker introduced the first song, and throughout the evening he and Georgie Fame hosted the show. They were sitting behind their keyboards, fronting each other, Georgie on the left side of the stage, and Gary to the right.

When Procol Harum was formed, the instruments were selected to give as many soloing opportunities as possible. The piano, the Hammond and the guitar could each play long solos, while the rest of the instruments were free to provide a tight backing. You could suspect that the Rhythm Kings' lineup was constructed from the same kind of reasoning. The band offered lots of fine soloing instruments, and they were all exploited in full. Gary Brooker on piano and Georgie Fame on Hammond have already been mentioned. Then both Albert Lee and Martin Taylor on guitars could solo while the band still had Terry Taylor on rhythm guitar. The two saxes, played by Frank Mead and Nick Payn also did some very impressive solos. The rhythm section consisted of Graham Broad on drums and of course Bill Wyman on bass. The two girl singers, Beverley Skeete and Janis Hoyte, concluded the lineup.

The band started out with Let the Good Times Roll, a number Gary has started concerts with on many occasions when billed as 'Gary Brooker and Friends' or 'No Stiletto Shoes'. Gary sang the first part, while Georgie and Beverley took their turn later in the song.

Gary introduced Beverley Skeete for her first solo number that night: Groovin'. "It's from our new album. Has it come out yet, Bill?" he asked. When Bill Wyman answered, "It came yesterday," Gary immediately started to sing and play the old Beatles' song Yesterday. But his solo broke up after a few bars. In fact, the new album had not been released the day before, as Bill said. Release date is in May 2000.

The concert featured a new song, whose title I have to guess to be The Rhythm Kings, as Gary Brooker's introduction (as usual) was somewhat mumbled: "This is a song for the band, thank you - Georgie Fame does The Rhythm Kings ladies and gentlemen. First time performance. Première here in Hamburg."

The songs played that night were all good humored songs, easy to enjoy for the audience. The band played tightly: Bill Wyman and Graham Broad make a good rhythm section. And I think everybody present will remember the band for their great solos. Albert Lee did some great solos on his guitar, and Martin Taylor was possibly even better. One strange thing though, his guitar was an electrified acoustic guitar. They also made good a stage show, at one time they both played on the same guitar, something you often could see done on stage in the 60s. Frank Mead's sax solo on I Put a Spell on You will never be forgotten. and Nick Payn made an impressive train sound with his harmonica on Mystery Train.

Gary Brooker introduced the title song from his 1982 solo album like this: "Bill very kindly said to me: Gary, how much are you willing to pay me to go on this tour? I said, well you just name a price Bill - and I will give it to you. So I'm happy to go out and do something I've written in order to pay Bill. But it's a great honor that Bill lets me sing this one: Lead me to the Water." I think Bill was wise to let Gary sing this song, as it was very well received. I might be somewhat biased, but I think it's only fair to say that this song got more applause from the audience than any other song performed that night.

The last number to be played that night was another song Gary had previously used to end his Christmas concerts. One has to wonder that Gary might have had a say or two when the setlist was made, starting and ending in a typical No Stiletto Shoes fashion. Anyway, Little Queenie is a song that really rocks, and with lots of opportunities for the whole band to put in their solos: a perfect ending for the evening.

My wife and Gary

Talking with Gary

I had a chat with Gary after the concert. He was in his usual good mood, and even my wife found him easy to speak with and enjoyed herself, although she never was a big Procol Harum fan. But a lot of other Procol Harum fans were present. Outside the backstage meeting area, a lot of people were queuing up for autographs and handshakes, many holding records they hoped to get autographed. Rolling Stones albums, Georgie Fame albums and Procol Harum albums. Again I might be biased, but I saw most Procol Harum albums. Gary did a lot of signing but had to end before everybody was satisfied. "I could have been standing here all night," he explained. To me he added, "If they had brought Within Our House I would have signed more". I suddenly realized that I had made a very wise decision when I had brought exactly that CD for Gary to sign when we met for lunch in Chiddingfold some months earlier. That CD must mean something special to Gary. If you haven't got it yet, find out for yourself why. You can even get the original Gazza issue (Gary Brooker's own label) direct from the Shine On fan club.

My signed copy of Within Our House.
Gary wrote

To Jens. Thanks for
BtP & all
Gary Brooker

I'll end my little story here. We had a nice evening in Fabrik, Hamburg. The music was good, the band was excellent and we had a great time.


1- Let the Good Times Roll (Gary Brooker, Georgie Fame and Beverley Skeete)
2 - Walking On And Only (Georgie)
3 - Jitterbug Boogie (Gary)
4 - Groovin' (Beverley)
5 - Melody (Georgie + Beverley)
6 - Jump Jive and Wail (Albert Lee)
7 - The Rhythm Kings (Georgie)
8 - Lead Me to the Water (Gary)
9 - I Put a Spell On You (Beverley)
10 - Anyway the Wind Blows (Georgie)
11 - Mood Swing (Albert)
12 - Let's Rock Some More (Beverley)
13 - Mystery Train (Georgie)
14 - I'll be Satisfied (Gary)
15 - Tear it Up (Albert)

16 - Hey Little Boy, (Do You Remember Me?) (Janis)
17 - Little Queenie (Gary)

Gary writing autographs


You can find and order all the Rhythm Kings' CDs (including the May 2000 release, Groovin')
at Amazon USA here

You can find and order all the Rhythm Kings' CDs (including the May 2000 release, Groovin')
at Amazon UK here

More on the Spring 2000 Rhythm Kings' tour here


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