Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Procol Harum in Zurich

Benedetto Vigne in Tagesanzeiger, 5 December 2003


As if in the pub next door

Procol Harum performed in the Zurich Volkshaus. Over the decades the band has managed to keep in close touch with its audience.

Of late we have got used to musical old people's homes from all over the place. To be sure, the official reference books give Gary Brooker's year of birth as 1945 but the smart snow-white Englishman looks at least ten years older. All the same: his rough brassy timbre has never suited him as well as on this Friday evening in the sold-out Zurich Volkshaus. On the stage, Procol Harum, that British quintet which gave us one of the unforgettable standards of the genre. They have been back on the road, reunited, for a good ten years, and the worry that this might be in effect another cover band turns out to be unjustified.

And this is in spite of the fact that only Gary Brooker and, on the Hammond organ, Matthew Fisher remain from the original line-up. But the point is that Brooker's piano and Fisher's organ were the foundation of this rock band's style, the first to combine Bach and Blues paving the way for a load of rubbish later produced under this banner.

Classic songs

Shine on Brightly is the opener, which means: carry on shining in grandeur. There's still something of the character that made this a most likeable band right from the start, certainly Brooker's polyglot roguishness, but above all the unpretentious presence of the whole quintet: a band from the pub next door. And this closeness allows one to overlook the occasional rock clichés which find their way into the newer songs. The audience react all the more enthusiastically to the classic Procol-Harum-songs with their unmistakable keyboard figures, their clever harmonic twists, their romantic arcs of melody, their unusual rhythms: Quite Rightly So, Grand Hotel, Homburg, A Salty Dog. An audience which, by the way, is almost as grey-haired as Mr Brooker himself. Or as the title of the much-awaited final encore has it: A Whiter Shade of Pale.

(trans. Peter Christian: bethub!)


Procol Harum concerts in 2003: index page

 


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