PROCOL HARUM: BEYOND EARTHLY REALITY : Katowice, "Spodek", 15 JUNE 2002
Procol Harum probably means 'beyond Earthly reality'. One warm Saturday evening, 15 June 2002, Gary Brooker’s band took more than three thousand people from 'Spodek' – old hippies and many young people – to the fairland, a thousand light-years away from grey reality. Unfortunately that state lasted only two hours. The audience got into the swing really slowly that evening (they were just clapping at the beginning of the concert).
But great emotions began earlier. The British band was welcomed at Pyrzowice airport at 14.45 by media representatives (Polish TV and Radio Katowice and press journalists) and fans. Gary Brooker appeared wearing glasses, a red shirt and an oriental hat. A press conference, where Procol Harum’s leader announced a new record to be recorded at the beginning of 2003, took place in an air-conditioned studio in Polish Radio Katowice two hours and half later. Sensation! The same information was broadcast by Programme 1 in the main edition of 'Wiadomosci' (Polish TV).
The band played just the most famous compositions during the concert, but these great pieces are timeless. The only hint of the record was a nostalgic composition An Old English Dream. What is the new song like? It is melodious, crying piano, Brooker’s cheerless voice, lamenting Hammond organ in the background, dynamic guitar in the chorus – this is the new Procol Harum: one could say that artistically nothing has changed. Although the guitarist Trower, amd exceptional percussionist Wilson were missing, they were perfectly replaced by musicians who have played with Brooker and Fisher since the band started to exist again in 1991 (the son of an ex-Jethro Tull bass player, Matt Pegg has played since 1995). The most important thing is that musicians were in a good form. It is obvious that charismatic Gary Brooker is the leader of the band and – apart from this – he is the best story-teller.
Let’s come back to the music. 35 year-old compositions came alive again because of the modern rhythmic section (Pegg, Brzezicki), heavy-metal-and-blues Whitehorn style, and Brooker’s undestroyed voice. In addition Fisher’s Hammond! Heavy, sometimes almost baroque (like in Separation). After the concert someone wrote an opinion on ONET website, that these British are genius. It is not just an 'empty word' confirming this, the music was falling smoothly from the speakers. The audience moods changed in kaleidoscopic fashion, thanks to the good repertoire and great skills of the musicians. Time seemed to pass a bit too fast, as if in a different dimension. There was a show of hits such as Shine On Brightly, Conquistador, Grand Hotel, and the biggest hit, the hippies' hymn, the great A Whiter Shade of Pale (chosen by BBC Radio as the second gold hit after Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody).
The audience and the band became one. People stood up, lighters appeared somewhere, somebody cried, somebody was contemplating, hundreds were singing with Brooker "... turned a whiter shade of paaale". The 1967 instrumental composition Repent Walpurgis, played with a strong symphonic pathos in the rock style, ended the concert: eight minutes of the best playing, the essence of the progressive rock. It would had been wonderful if Ludwig van Beethoven had been alive and present at the concert. He might have enjoyed less symphonic pieces like the hit She wandered through the garden fence, heavy Typewriter Torment, rhythmic and hot Wizard Man, As Strong As Samson, rhythm and blues Monsieur R Monde; he might have considered epic, apocalyptic, sea-style story – ending with a mass (and the audience ovation) – Whaling Stories as the best piece; he might have also chosen A Salty Dog which was usually dedicated to everyone who looked at us from above. One more sea-style story in Procol Harum’s heritage.
Most of us felt like waking up from a wonderful dream, when the band disappeared from the stage, after a storm of applause, and the lights were turned on. The music of Procol Harum is magic. Any perfect report or journalist’s review, or just a press report, is unable to show the spirit of that meeting. It must be experienced by oneself at the concert.
It is a good occasion to thank the organisers for inviting the band a third time in this Millennium. Gentlemen! Procol Harum will surely tour to promote the new record next year.
I beg you to invite them again. I dream of finding myself beyond Earthly reality once again.
Translated from the ONET website by Edyta Nadzieja ... thanks!