I have arrived at the House of Blues in Cambridge, Mass. I was welcomed by Jules outside. As I walked into the venue, I found the smallest room of a HoB that I have been to. Mind you, though, this is only my third one of approximately six or seven.
This room holds about 200 people and is Standing-Room-Only and long and narrow. The stage is about 18 to 20 feet wide, which has been verified by Paler Tom Frohlichstein (see illustration ... all the pictures on this page were taken at soundcheck), an architect, who has joined us for the soundcheck.
Just walked outside and met Michael Borkson who had a copy the first album on Deram which was just signed by Gary and Matthew as they walked into the venue. He found out about the gig by going to BtP. As I had an extra ticket and he needed one to the sold-out event, I handed him it as a courtesy.
Soundcheck is beginning at 6:30 for the 9:00 show, but never really gets going until a little after 7:00.
A few people drift into the room during the soundcheck and others say hello as the show goes on. They are John Nourse, Gary Dodge, Brit Johnson, Alyce & Stephen Fougere, Errol and Sandra Conant from Ft. Meyers, Florida, Wilson Brown, Mark Charalambous, and Dave Nastasi. Palers George Lovell, Marvin Chassman and Greg Panfile have joined in, too.
I am handling the merchandise again, and tonight we have CDs of The Well's on Fire. I was asked continually if I had the old CDs and other old shirt styles in different colors. Again, I advised them to got to BtP and Shine On. Tonight we had The Well and A Salty Dog, the December 2002 Italia tour.
Various riffs and short excerpts of songs were played to get the sound levels and tones correct. A little jamming to the Small Faces' tune, All or Nothing. Also included were snippets of Memorial Drive, Shadow Boxed, This World Is Rich, then sound levels piano and Hammond and the Roland VK-7. VIP Room harmony check, and then full Wall Street Blues and The Question.
The crowd entered around 8:15. Tee-shirts are selling and a few CDs. Greg Panfile and Marvin Chassman stopped by to say hello. The band went upstairs to eat.
I am having lots of conversations about past Procol Harum history and Robin Trower.
9:10 we're starting. The crowd is flipping over Geoff's slide lead on VIP Room. The crowd is into it from the first notes. The sound is clear. Gary still speaking French! Yes, a great balanced sound Geoff and Matt groovin' on Maf's ending solo. The band is totally into it from the crowd energy.
Gary comments, "Sorry that the songs are so short. We just get started, and then they are over." This happens at the end of A Robe Of Silk. A guy yells out, In Held 'Twas in I, and Gary and the band goes right into Glimpses of Nirvana, and segues into Fires (Which Burnt Brightly).
Gary talks about pensions not being worth much anymore 'and that's why we're here'. 'Should have put it away in a shoebox under the bed'. Geoff cranking big time on Wall Street Blues.
The room is packed, but comfortable. Again mostly a 60s and 70s crowd.
Robert's Box is played beautifully and Mark provides great drums, and Geoff another amazing lead. Gary comments, "We're fucking great!" as the crowd responds overwhelmingly.
Lady yells, "Turn the fans on!" And Gary playfully hears, "When's the other band on? Then Gary says, "I thought the fans were on!" It was getting warm inside this little club. Then, unbelievably, a disco ball spins during Fellow Travellers.
This is the best playing and crowd response of a first set I have heard, which includes Lewisham, Milton Keynes, and Montréal.
During the second set, Gary jokes with a guy about traveling to Norway. Then he jokes with a lady saying, "When did you get divorced? What else did he bring home?" Someone yells out, "A Souvenir of London." Everyone, including the band, has a laugh.
Geoff teases with Stairway to Heaven and Sunshine of your Love.
As Piggy Pig Pig started and built up, I stood up on the foot support of the stool I was sitting on in the merchandise area. The power of their playing just lifted me. George Lovell said it was the best playing of that song he'd ever heard. Especially great drumming and lead guitar.
As the beautiful tones kept feeding off of each other, Gary and Maf, piano and organ, The Blink of an Eye was beautifully cerebral.
Upon agreeing to play the requested Shine on Brightly, Gary asked, "Is it B flat?" of Maf. Couldn't miss Geoff looking over in amazement as Maf presents his solo.
Geoff plays another fantastic lead on An Old English Dream.
Mark gave us drumming that was about as close to BJ as anything he has produced live, and Maf's Hammond exploded throughout A Salty Dog.
Just prior to the encore Gary states that a woman approached him and said she didn't have much time to live, 'Can I hear that song before I go?' A Whiter Shade of Pale definitely completed 'The Miller's Tale' this evening. I believe there was so much energy and synergy in the room, that another set could have been possible.
Afterwards, the band appeared pleased with the whole evening and stayed around to sign a few autographs and down a few pints with the last small group of fans. Then it was off to bed to get ready for travel to Alexandria, Virginia on Tuesday.
--oe, the monocular one