Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum - Live (DVD)

Reviewed by John BoBo Bollenberg at Progressive World

Classic Pictures DVD8051X (2005: repackaged and with improved sound)

Originally released in 2001, exactly the same DVD gets released in a slightly different package stuck inside an embossed slipcase. Well it's almost an identical release although this time around some extra features are no longer to be found. The biographies, discography and family tree are no longer there, but, as with the first issue, both the actual concert plus the 'uninhibited' rehearsal section are included.

When you see the stage setup for the current [sic] edition of the legendary Procol Harum you see that the founders and legends of the band each take up one side of the stage. On the right is the immortal Hammond organ of Matthew Fisher, whilst on the left we have the distinctive voice and piano of Gary Brooker. The middle of the stage is reserved for the "young" members of the band, they being Geoff Whitehorn (If, Fantasy, Crawler, Roger Chapman, Elkie Brooks, Bad Company, Paul Rodgers, Roger Daltrey, The Who) on guitar, Matt Pegg (Jethro Tull, Francis Dunnery, Fairport Convention) on bass, and drummer Mark Brzezicki. Mark is also known for his work with Pete Townshend, Big Country, Ultravox and Fish which makes his style very suitable for the work of Procol Harum.

What better way to kick off this Danish television special than with the weirdly entitled Bringing Home the Bacon. As happens often with the early stages of a concert, the balance isnít 100% perfect, which results here in Brookerís piano being not really loud enough in the mix. Luckily things are perfect in time for Homburg, which surely is one of the bandís all-time highs. Recorded in Portalen, Denmark on 15th December 2001, no fewer than twenty songs will be performed, so the sitting audience (and you at home!) certainly is in for a real treat. Brooker, who looks like a cross between Jon Lord and Kenny Rogers, delivers an almost classical feel during the piano intro for Fires, sporting once again those sparse interventions from the Hammond god Matthew Fisher.

Recorded in a sober setting with only some stage lights doing a proper job, Procol Harum in concert mainly is about the music, so no extra visuals have been added. Delivering a decent amount of blues with Seems [sic] To Have The Blues, Brooker advises the band to continue in the same style, as he is enjoying himself, which is swiftly answered to by the band by means of Memorial Drive. Whether on stage in a theater like the one in Denmark, or in a small smokey [sic] club, the way the band members complement each other is proof of years of experience from which the total sound finally benefits. The sound of the seagulls in the intro of A Salty Dog is replaced here by some guitar effects courtesy of Geoff Whitehorn. Amazing how Brooker still hits those high notes perfectly! Strange, however, that Brooker has a book containing all the lyrics within reach. Although I must confess that Procolís lyrics are not the easiest in the world it's still a bit strange to see Gary helping himself this way.

The final three songs of the concert certainly deliver a bold exclamation mark as it contains not only the best work Procol Harum has ever released, but without any doubt the best work the world has ever heard! With Matthew Fisher in the spotlight, Repent Walpurgis kind of sounds, from an instrumental point of view, like an alternative version of Je T'aime Moi Non Plus. Divine how organ and wailing guitar work together in this instrumental beauty. The band leaves the stage having reserved Conquistador and the immortal A Whiter Shade Of Pale as encores. Listening closely to their moving version of A Whiter Shade of Pale, one has to confess it's probably one of the all-time best pieces of modern emotional music ever written, and still today it sounds as fresh as when it was first recorded so many years ago.

In Portalen, Copenhagen the concert has come to a close but the lucky owners of this DVD can sit back and enjoy the extra feature. This is something to look out for as we are given the opportunity to witness the band in their rehearsal room. Interspersed with interesting bits of interview from all of the members it really gives a good idea of what Procol Harum is all about today. Looking at the professional way these guys are acting one should ask the question why they have to rehearse in the first place? In years to come you can get to see the band live if you really want to; however, the chance to step into their very own rehearsal room is next to impossible. With this DVD however you can enter the kingdom of kingdoms and enjoy every second of it! What a great DVD this is and to describe it with one of the band's songtitles: A Dream In Every Home!

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