Procol Harum

the Pale

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 A 'fan forever' waxes nostalgic

Michael Chiaro, April 2022

This engaging bulletin shares something with both the features we're currently (April 2022) running at 'Beyond the Pale' – the fans' Brooker tributes, and the Procol Gig Project – and is therefore doubly welcome ... thanks, Mike.

I was just waxing nostalgic, thinking about the many times I've seen Procol Harum, and mourning Gary's passing, knowing we've come to the end of an era. I tried to figure out how many times I've seen them and calculated, using all my concert stubs (which I have saved ) that it's fifteen.

But the very first time I saw them is not listed in your concert dates: it was at the Crawdaddy Theater on 2nd Ave in NYC just up the street from what would become the Fillmore East. It was formerly the Anderson Theater, renamed in an attempt, I would guess, to sound hipper. The date was 10 February 1968. The weather was brutal, having to walk from the subway station on the west side to the east in single-digit temperatures. Procol was second on the bill. The first act was The Bagatelle, a Boston band who had just released their first LP. The headliner was Moby Grape. Procol took the stage and blew me away, playing the lion's share of their debut. The finale was a storming Repent Walpurgis. Needless to say, the crowd call out for more. But much to my delight, when they returned to the stage, Gary made an announcement. Moby Grape was stuck in Boston and would be arriving late, so they were asked to continue playing longer. Wow, what a great twist of fate! I was a fan of Moby Grape, but I was really there to see Procol.

My memory is a little unclear … but in the extended set, they played a lot of unreleased (unrecorded?) songs including a dynamic classically-based instrumental. At fifteen, I was hooked, and a fan forever.

Another date to add: 20 April 1971. Procol played, with no opening act, at Jersey City State College, Jersey City NJ. Normally I would have gone to see them at the Fillmore East where they would be on the 23 and 24th, but I lived in Jersey City. My best friend Dennis worked at their radio station and got to spend a good part of the day with the band. He was a really big fan as well. He couldn't get me backstage till the show ended. By then, the band left quickly, and the only one I found there was Robin Trower, whom I came face to face with. I've been a musician (guitarist) for 56 years now, and he was a tremendous influence. But I didn't speak to him. He went stomping by and looked as mad as a wet hen! A roadie witnessed this and told me: ‘You did the right thing, Robin's not happy!’ 

Have a look at other set-lists | Fans' Brooker tributes | Procol Gig Project

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