David Ebony, writer for Art in America magazine, Interview, etc., writes to BtP (9 May 2003)
I suppose everyone would like to know how Procol Harum's first concerts in the USA since 1995 or so are going? I saw the second show on Friday night, 9 May 2003, at the venerable Bottom Line in New York City. I got there early but there was still a long line around the block for this sold-out show, so my seat was a bit far from the stage. This turned out to be a good thing as the sound mix where I sat was perfect. Sound-qualitywise, this was the best show of the six times I have seen Procol Harum live over the years. Gary, Matthew and the boys were brilliant.
But I must start off with a complaint about the end of the show because this is what is going through my head at this moment. Someone please tell Gary and Keith that on this tour there's no need to end on the encore of A Whiter Shade of Pale. The band could have just
slipped the mega-hit into the middle of the set with no problem, and ended the show with Conquistador or Whaling Stories or something else to just as good effect. In a packed house seating barely 1,000, this crowd knew Procol Harum's formidable song catalogue so well that the band could even have skipped AWSoP entirely and few would have minded. No one here just walked in off the streets – this show has been sold out for weeks. The set list appears here.
OK, that out of the way. Gary's voice was perfect – lilting, powerful, sexy and profound throughout the hour-and-a half show. Recognized by many as one of Pop's best singers, Gary used his voice to provoke, comfort, console, arouse and cajole throughout the night in unexpected and fantastic ways. A Salty Dog was a case in point. The standing ovation may have been for the entire band, but the glory was all Gary's.
The guitar, bass and drums were all excellent throughout the show. And Matthew Fisher's haunting organ, of course, makes Procol Harum Procol Harum. The biggest disappointment for me was the stunning omission from the set of the two best songs from the new PH CD The Well's on Fire, Shadow Boxed and So Far Behind [both played in the first set that same evening!]. The USA needs especially to hear Shadow Boxed, one of the best-ever Procol Harum songs. The American people are being shadow boxed every day by the present administration and forces at large. Gary, please play this song live.
Best wishes and many thanks to Procol Harum for a wonderful and memorable concert. And PS: congratulations to the designer of the new Procol Harum tour tee-shirts [Christine Ayre, from Shine On]. They are simple and great. I will really wear mine – often!
Thanks, Bert Saraco of Express Image Photography, for the photograph