Procol Harum

the Pale

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home

Procol Harum, Hammersmith

Robin Denselow, 1977, in a British national newspaper, details now forgotten

Procul Harum [sic]

It was, as lyricist Keith Reid agreed afterwards, the best concert in London that the band had ever done. It had ended after five or six encores, with the portly Gary Brooker at last bowing to the inevitable, and returning to the group's first hit A Whiter Shade of Pale.

Procol Harum had by then been on stage for over two hours, their normally subdued followers were on their feet, and Brooker's voice thundered magnificently across his piano, the stately organ lines of the excellent newcomer Pete Solley matching the clever staccato drum-bursts from BJ Wilson. At moments like those Procol were so magnificent, emotional and original, that it seemed remarkable that they are not more successful.

They have, for sure, had a strange career. It's ten years since A Whiter Shade became the world's theme tune for a summer, and since then Procol have been part of the British musical establishment — well respected, never never [sic] massively popular. Their 10 albums have included some fine songs, though the mix of piano and organ have often sounded repetitious, while their stage performances have been erratic, depending on how confident or cheerful the band happened to be feeling!

At Hammersmith they were all confident (a rarity for them in London) and Brooker was in fine voice. The new line-up, with Chris Copping moving back to bass, had given them new rhythmic vigour which was matched by Solley's clever keyboard and synthesiser work.

Old favourites, from Salty Dog to Grand Hotel, were powerfully dealt with, and on selections from the new album, Something Magic, Procol varied their usual format by adding an elaborate use of electronics in their fine Strangers In Space, and at last getting away from short songs with the extended, half-spoken The Worm and the Tree.

This over-simple allegory went on far too long but was an experiment in the right direction. If Procol's concerts were all as fine as this they'd be massively successful again.

More concerts A contrasting view of the same show

PH on stage | PH on record | PH in print | BtP features | What's new | Interact with BtP | For sale | Site search | Home