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Procol Harum : 'Live at the Union Chapel' 

A quick look by Charlie Allison, for BtP

A brief review based on just one viewing today, having driven up to Aberdeen to collect a copy, having failed to receive one through the postal services as anticipated.

The sticker on the DVD didn’t say “long-awaited” this time (The Well's on Fire appeared after a hiatus in excess of ten years), but this concert has been long-anticipated by those who attended and indeed by many on the far-flung shores of Procoldom.

On the night the gig was magic. We stepped out of the cold December rain, back in time into this dark, atmospheric church, with its beautiful rose window, hard but well-tiered pews and an acoustic which boded well for the concert ahead. The perfect Gothic venue for Procol Harum?

Sound, lighting and video people milled around purposefully – there was even “one of them” in the Bar at half-time while we topped up our drinks.

Gary Brooker had been to Buckingham Place for his MBE, so it was a red-letter day for him and being the end-of-the-tour show, a special day for all the Band. They even had a curry with us afterwards – what a night it was!

The reviews of the gig, including my own, were most enthusiastic and complimentary - it was one of the best events we had ever been to.

But how did the DVD turn out?

Great, just great! From the minute the Band troop out single-file behind their medal-bearing Commander, to when the bows are taken (after a three-verse AWSoP) this concert DVD is just perfection. The venue was much more atmospheric than Copenhagen and the Band’s performance was more upbeat and energised.

The Band’s sound on the DVD is perfect – well-balanced keyboards, tight and incisive guitar, a good bottom end and a well-miked drum-kit. And Gary sings brilliantly – well what’s new?

Visually, everyone in the band is well-featured and picked out at the appropriate moments.

Geoff Whitehorn performs with his customary good-humour and virtuosity (one guy in the vox-pop said he came to see Geoff who had played with Paul Rogers and he had now got into Procol Harum!).

Mark Brzezicki is featured pretty often from all around his kit and is seen to be the energetic, inventive drummer the PH music demands.

Matt Pegg is smartly Tyrolean (including his yodelled backing vocals!) and gets just a few featured moments, though strangely not during his inventive third verse of Old English Dream.

Matthew Fisher is given loads of close attention – it should be possible to transcribe the organ parts if you are musically able to do so. Hope this DVD encourages his early return to the fold.

Gary Brooker’s piano-playing and singing naturally get the prime shots and his musicianship and charisma carry the recorded performance just as masterfully as seen in the live gig.

The only naff bits are some of the black-and-white cutaways to the audience (myself included) which are a bit abrupt, and the two 'alternate-angle' features – Old English Dream and VIP Room – which are again very grainy black-and-white.

Other extras include a few variably-informed fan interviews at half-time – pity there weren’t more of our international visitors like One-Eye in the bar. One guy had bought AWSoP in Petticoat Lane in 1964 – obviously a talented archaeologist.

The earlier-in-the-day collage is very well done, but we would really have loved to hear some of the sound-check – boots anybody?

Gary gives a warm and interesting interview to what appear on the menu as eight written questions – maybe a live interrogator (like Douglas Adams at the Barbican) would have been preferable but his answers are interesting and bode well for the future (Gary obviously wants to continue performing for years to come!)

Lastly a great surprise and worthwhile extra – a brilliant, learned liner note from our own Procol Professor Roland Clare (strange he hasn’t mentioned it!) which contained everything you wanted to know and some clever in-jokes. I especially liked the idea that the Band keeps one eye on its keenest hyperfan!

This is a truly wonderful moment in time for the Procol Harum community, both band and fans.

Gary says the DVD is for fans in places where the band might not play – I just hope the opposite is true and Procol is encouraged to tour widely to sell the product!

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