John Nourse writes to BtP (6 May 2003)
A regal gathering of diversity at The House of Blues in Cambridge, MA last night as the faithful confirmed their passion and determination to help steer the ship that continues to sail with its proud and worn sails through the mine-strewn waters of this business called music.
It always amazes me to discover such an incredible cross section of humanity and attempts at humanity at a Procol Harum show. Prozac nation and AA were both well represented as usual, myself a potential member of the latter, somehow drinking brandy at the bar after the show, soaking up the atmosphere which was akin to Ajax making the quarterfinals of the Champions League; the "Little Band That Could" once again proving its mettle, substance and determination to carry the flag for the latest installment of seekers, of which there were many last night, and remind the world that the road starts and ends with the Truth, Nothing But The Truth! Find us a better combination of four words than these!
This House of Blues was the very first one built, so the premise for its existence was founded on an apparent moral commitment to promote the Blues, rather than the number of motorcycles that Dan Akroyd can buy. It is literally a two-storey house, with the restaurant on the first floor and the concert hall on the second floor. It holds no more than 125 folks at best, so every nuance of this church meeting was there for the taking.
Access to the upstairs opened at 8:00 and the band at 9:00, so there was plenty of time to connect with Fellow Travellers. We met a fellow who flew up from Buenos Aries, Argentina just for this show. My wife asked me this morning if the fan-base was mostly men, and thinking about it, it most certainly was and pretty much always has been from what I can tell. An interesting question for sure.
On to the music; Grand Hotel was dropped as the fourth song in lieu of Glimpses of Nirvana segueing into Fires. Geoff Whitehorn after the show confirmed the band has 110 songs to draw on from the Brooker/Reid gallery.
I rated the first set a 7.5 on a scale of 1–10. Like life itself, there were some splendid moments, but the chemistry never quite jelled between the band and the crowd during the set to take us on that ride that only The Muse can provide. I found the crowd a little timid and afraid to bare its ageing desire, to surrender to the intimacy and potential of the evening. It takes two to tango as they say! Highlights for me were the last three songs of the set, Robert's Box, Fellow Travellers and Strong As Samson. With Breezy and Peggy in the engine room, the band strung together some nice passes and mounted a grand attack just before halftime. Being a semi-retired drummer, I always build the team from the back, and Brzezicki is the balls; putting his own stamp on that tastefully muscular combination of groove and simplicity, with the occasional reminder that the defender can also attack, à la Roberto Carlos, that must have BJ smiling. Matt's playing was in the pocket, and coupled with Geoff and Mark, we had a drive-train with an unlimited warranty! This rhythm section kicks ass!
Speaking of drummers, Dave Mattacks was at the show, sampling the night's wares. Dave is currently in ten bands, according to his wife Karen. He should have sat in, even on percussion.
Second set opened with a stellar Simple Sister, with the Commander's vocal leading the charge. What a great tune this is. The song plays itself. It's fascinating how some songs just cannot fail to move you. This tune certainly falls in this category, with its mixture of staccato riffs splayed like bolts of lightning over rough waters in a minor to major to minor, "I can't make up my $%^&*() mind where I'm going" reminder, of defying traditional song structures, part of the genius of the writers in this band. A perfect vehicle for all the band's strengths: Count Basie meets Marshall stacks!
Other highlights for me were all the new songs from The Wells On Fire! Duke Ellington once said his favorite song was the one he was currently writing, and that notion was confirmed last night. It's human nature to feel more motivated to express yourself in new ways, so the new material had more spark for my money.
This World Is Rich and The Blink Of An Eye were beautiful reminders of Keith Reid's human compassion and the Commander's ability to match the appropriate combination of melody and rhythm with his lyrics. The search for the truth goes on forever don't it mates?
Mr Fisher was the ultimate team player as usual, his fills and splatterings of taste, color and muscle applied in all the right places, and with a Hammond sound that drapes itself over the proceedings like Tupelo honey being dripped on a woman's breast. Weisselklenzenacht was a knockout, and I wanted to piss on Geoff's new sneakers when he held his lighter in the air in jest at the beginning of the tune. Just kidding Geoff! Another great composition from the Mafster!
So, I rated the second set an 8, and Mr Whitehorn at the post-show party concurred. All in all, a wonderful show! The band hung out afterwards signing 8-track tapes and posing for pix with the fans. We are so lucky to have this ship still in the waters! The Truth Rules! Warmest regards to all!