Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at the Rainbow Theatre

James Johnson, NME, 7 October 1972

If there's one band with the class and elegance to successfully combine on equal terms with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra then it had to be Procol Harum.

And as they proved so convincingly at the London Rainbow last Friday their dark, dramatic music has much to gain from such an ambitious enterprise.

Before Procol themselves took the stage the Philharmonic had a short warm-up session of their own, running through a bit of Vaughan Williams and Liszt, all of which was dutifully applauded by the audience.

After a short interval Procol appeared and, with Gary Brooker dressed in a dark blue navy jacket, launched into Shine on Brightly followed by Whaling Stories and a new one called Fires that Burn Brightly [sic].

Apart from just having to get used to the unusual sight of quite so many people on stage, at first it seemed the combination between band, orchestra and Pro Arte singers was a little shaky, partly due to an uneven balance.

But by the time they all moved into the heavy chords of Simple Sister, Procol had firmly taken control, with the orchestra providing just the right amount of colouring.

From then on things worked smoothly, especially on Conquistador, the magnificent Salty Dog, and a magnificent new piece called Grand Hotel, 'bringing back all the grandeur of former times,' according to Brooker yet with the slightly chaotic, wayward feel inherent in so many of their numbers.

At times the whole concept threatened to become almost too grandiose, too melodramatic, but with new member Mick Grabham obviously quite at home and cutting through with some ringing guitar work, there were some breathtaking moments as well, especially during the extended In Held 'Twas in I.

And, even after two encores, the band and orchestra won one of the longest rounds of applause I've heard in some time.

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