Archive for the ‘Procol Harum’ Category

Procol Harum Dominion Theatre London 24 November 2014

Procol Harum Dominion Theatre London 24 November 2014
Friday Night is Music Night (for BBC Radio 2)
imageLast night Procol Harum performed for ‘Friday Night Is Music Night’. The performance will be broadcast shortly on Radio 2. This special event took place at the Dominion Theatre in London, and Procol Harum were accompanied by the sixty piece BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by David Firman and the forty voice Crouch End Festival Chorus.
The current line-up of the band is founder member, singer/pianist and composer Gary Brooker, Matt Pegg on bass, Geoff Dunn on drums, and Josh Phillips on keyboards and Hammond organ. Their usual guitarist Geoff Whitehorn had been taken unwell a few days ago and was replaced at very short notice by Dave Colquhoun of Rick Wakeman’s band who did exceptionally well, having learnt the set in two days, and who was himself suffering from a broken ankle and walking on crutches. Procol Harum dont play in their home country very often these days, and it is many years since they have performed a symphonic set in the UK.
The venue for this unique concert was the Dominion theatre, a beautiful 2,000 seater hall, which sits at the end of Oxford Street in Tottenham Court Road, and has for the past 12 years been the home of Queen’s We Will Rock You musical. The concert was sold out, with Procol Harum fans travelling from around the world to experience this performance.
imageThe orchestra and choir filled the entire stage, and a small stage had been constructed for the band, just above the orchestra pit. The concert started at 7.30pm sharp, with the familiar chords of Homburg and the opening line “Your multilingual business friend, Has packed her bags and fled” filling the theatre and sending shivers down our spines. Songs like these were written to be performed with orchestral accompaniment, and Gary Brooker’s voice rang strong and clear above the majesty of the music. A perfect opening song. This was followed by Simple Sister from 1971’s Broken Barricades, and Grand Hotel from the 1973 album of the same name. Gary explained how, at the of the album’s release the band would stay in the best hotels, eat in the best restaurant, and travel in limousines, and joked that for this concert he came on the tube, ate a takeaway burger, and that they had to finish the show on time so that he could catch the last train home. This was followed by Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) which is also from Grand Hotel. Next was Misssing Person, which is a Brooker solo track, and was performed by the band only, sans orchestra . Broken Barricades was then followed by Sympathy for the Hard of Hearing, which Gary dedicated to those who have fought for their country. The first set closed with an epic version of A Salty Dog which Gary dedicated to Alvin Stardust, Jack Bruce, and also to Geoff Whitehorn who was apparently texting his best wishes to the band from his hospital bed, and was surely there in spirit.
After a short interval the concert resumed. The second half started with a second attempt of the opening section of A Salty Dog, to remedy ‘a technical fault’ for the purposes of the recording for radio, although I am sure none of us had noticed any technical fault the first time round. This was followed by Wall Street Blues (band only), Something Magic, Nothing But the Truth and Into the Flood. The Gary announced the song that “started it all for us in 1967” which sounded just great, with a strong passionate vocal performance by Gary and Josh on Hammond, recreating the texture and sound of the Hammond solos to perfection. The song received an amazing reception from the audience with applause which seemed to go for ever and a standing ovation with the who,e theatre on their feet. Amazing. imageThe concert closed with An Old English Dream, and The Blink of an Eye (Gary explained how the song was written about 9/11, how the band would often talk to the New York fireman as they passed by the fore station, and how many of those men lost their lives). The encore was Conquistador. A truly epic concert. It’s a shame that Procol Harum don’t play more often in this country. Gary joked at one point that he “wasn’t sure if the band would make their 50th”. I’m sure they will, and based on this performance they continue to go from strength to strength.
Setlist: Homburg; Simple Sister; Grand Hotel; Fires (Which Burnt Brightly); Missing Person; Broken Barricades; Sympathy for the Hard of Hearing; A Salty Dog
A Salty Dog opening; Wall Street Blues; Something Magic; Nothing But the Truth; Into the Flood; A Whiter Shade of Pale; An Old English Dream; The Blink of an Eye; Grand Finale
Encore: Conquistador
Stayed at David and Shauna’s and I’m typing this on the train back home.

The Reading Festival 23rd – 25th August 1974

The Reading Festival 23rd – 25th August 1974
readingprog74This was my third visit to the Reading Festival; I felt I was a seasoned festival goer 🙂 . By now a large crew of local people were going to the festival, so there were lots of mates there, and we spent much of the weekend in the pubs in town, and down near the Caversham Bridge; particularly The Griffin. We would nip back to the festival site to catch the bands we wanted to see. The line-up in 1974 wasn’t particularly strong in comparison to the previous couple of years, and quite a few bands who had been advertised didn’t show (notably Eric Burdon, Ronnie Lane and Blodwyn Pig, all of whom I was looking forward to seeing). The Friday line-up was : Nutz, Johnny Mars, Hustler, Beckett, Camel, 10c, Fumble, Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
The first night of the festival saw the triumphant headlining return of the Alex Harvey band, who lived up to their name and were truly sensational. SAHB had appeared low down on the bill the previous year; there will have been many in the crowd who saw that performance, and knew how good they were. Johnny Mars and his Sunflower Blues Band gigged a lot in the early 70s; they played traditional blues; I remember seeing them at Sunderland Poly a few times; pretty good too. Fumble were a rock’roll revival band who also gigged a lot. Beckett were local North East heroes, featuring singer Terry Slesser. The SAHB setlist was something like this: Faith Healer; Midnight Moses; Can’t Get Enough; Give My Regards To Sergeant Fury; The Return of Vambo; The Man in the Jar; Money Honey; The Impossible Dream; Schools Out; Framed.
readingtrafficSaturday line-up: Jack the Lad, G T Moore and the Reggae Guitars, Trapeze, Sutherland Brothers, JSD Band, Procol Harum, Thin Lizzy, Long John Baldry, Heavy Metal Kids, Greenslade, Georgie Fame, Traffic.
Two bands stick in my mind from Saturday: Thin Lizzy who were excellent, and about to break through a year or so later, and Traffic. This was the classic Lizzy line-up featuring front-man Phil Lynott, the twin guitars of Scott Gorham and Brian Robertson, and Brian Downey on drums; at the time of the Nightlife album; they were at the top of their game. Traffic were excellent. They had just released their album When the Eagle Flies, and their set at Reading featured a few songs from that album, plus some old classics. The line-up at the time was Steve Winwood (guitar, vocals, keyboards); Chris Wood (flute, sax); Jim Capaldi (drums, vocals); Rosko Gee (bass); Rebop (percussion). Stand-outs were Steve singing John Barleycorn, simple and beautiful with acoustic guitar, and Rebop’s congas and percussion throughout. I found a published setlist for Traffic, which shows they played: Empty Pages; Graveyard People; Who Knows What Tomorrow May Bring; John Barleycorn; 40,000 Headmen; Love; When the Eagle Flies; Walking in the Wind; Dream Gerrard. I also have it in my mind that they performed Feelin’ Alright, but maybe that’s my memory playing tricks again. Also worthy of mention are Procol Harum (great version of Whiter Shade of Pale and a big success during the late afternoon), the late great Long John Baldry (excellent voice and a hero of mine), Heavy Metal Kids (the late Gary Holton as crazy and manic as ever), and Georgie Fame who seemed a bit out of place as part of the Saturday night line-up, but carried on the jazz and R’n’B tradition of the festival and went down pretty well.
readingtixSunday Line-up: Gary Farr, Chilli Willi and the Red Hod Peppers, Esparanto, Strider, Barclay James Harvest, Chapman & Whitney Streetwalkers, Kevin Coyne, George Melly, Winkies, Steve Harley & Cockney Rebel, Harvey Andrews, Focus.
My main memories of the final day are of Steve Harley. Cockney Rebel had split a few months before the festival, and this one of Steve’s first appearances with his new band. They stole the show; appearing just as it was getting dark; the audience was with Steve from the start, and the performance was a triumph. Tumbling Down closed the set with a mass crowd singalong of “Oh dear, look what they’ve done to the blues, blues, blues”. It was clear that Steve was back, as cocky as ever; 1975 would bring him massive success with Make Me Smile.
I also remember watching Kevin Coyne (Marjory Razorblade), George Melly (a return after his success the previous year) and Focus who closed the show, and were also great, but seemed a little of anti-climax after Steve Harley’s performance.
DJs for the weekend were John Peel and Jerry Floyd. Oh and there were lots of cheers of “Wally”, “John Peels a c**t” (not sure how that one started), and a revolt at the prices of food in the arena, which resulted in a fish and chip van being trashed. Crazy, happy days.

Procol Harum live Newcastle 1973, Reading 1974 and Middlesbrough 1976

Procol Harum live Newcastle 1973, Reading 1974 and Middlesbrough 1976
procol73I am a big fan of Procol Harum, although I have only seen them three times in concert. White Shade of Pale, Homburg and Conquistador remain favourite songs of mine to this day. Their appearances in the UK are few and far between these days; although they do continue to play a small number of shows in mainland Europe. I first saw Procol Harum at a concert in Newcastle City Hall on 16th March 1973. The 1973 line up was Gary Brooker (keyboards, vocals), Alan Cartwright (bass), Chris Copping (keyboards), Mick Grabham (guitar), B J Wilson (drums), Keith Reid (lyrics). Support for the concert at the City Hall came from Hemlock, who were a new blues rock band fronted by Miller Anderson (ex Keef Hartley band). My memories of the performance are of a great, powerful set, which started with Conquistador, but I was also disappointed that they didn’t play White Shade of Pale that night. The setlist will have been something like this (based on published setlists of the time): Conquistador; Bringing Home the Bacon; Toujours L’Amour; The Devil Came from Kansas; Homburg; Fires (Which Burnt Brightly); For Liquorice John; Whaling Stories; Grand Hotel; Kaleidoscope; Robert’s Box; Power Failure; Simple Sister; Repent Walpurgis; A Salty Dog.
I next saw Procol Harum at the Reading Festival in 1974. They played, I think, on the Saturday afternoon, and were equally as good; and this time they did play Whiter Shade of Pale 🙂 . procolmidds The next time I saw Procol was at a concert at Middlesbrough Town Hall on 7th January 1976. This time there were supported by the very brilliant and much-lamented Vivian Stanshall, who entertained us with a crazy set featuring Bonzo classics and his solo material. Procol were magnificent that night, the swirling chords of their majestic pieces reverberating around the beautiful main hall of Middlesbrough town hall. They were joined by Viv Stanshall for the encores which included a crazy song called the Browns, which Viv had written with Keith Reid; it was based on a story Viv had read in the newspaper about a family called the Browns. The setlist will have been something like this (based on published setlists of the time): Toujours l’Amour; Bringing Home the Bacon; Shine on Brightly; Fresh Fruit; As Strong as Samson; The Unquiet Zone; Grand Hotel; Conquistador; Pandora’s Box; Cerdes (Outside the Gates of); Souvenir of London; Power Failure; A Salty Dog; The Blue Danube. Encores: I keep Forgetting; The Browns (with Viv Stanshall); A Whiter Shade of Pale.procul2002 The Middlesbrough gig was the last time I saw Procol in concert, although I had a ticket for a gig at the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle in 2002, which was sadly cancelled. I still have my ticket which is pictured here. I hope I can get to see them one more time, and await their next performance in the UK. Thanks to John for his scan of the poster from the 1973 Newcastle City Hall concert with Hemlock support.