It was Friday 18 June 18, 11.30 am, when I finished a meeting in my office and soon after I passed picking up my older (14 year-old) son Andrea at school where he had just terminated his first block of examinations to have access to the high school.
A short run home to remove my jacket and tie (big mistake as you’ll read later), put on our signed Procol t-shirts and ... let’s go to the airport for a short one-hour flight to Venice (cheaper than Verona) where we rented a Mercedes Smart Roadster (a small two seat coupé car) that, you will read later, was well appreciated by two members of the band.
We were just landed when we were called by Chris Cooke, Procol Manager to whom, with the help of BtP, we had sent a message concerning our availability to help selling some merchandise (as had already been the case last year in Rome and Naples). He also informed us that the band was just starting the soundcheck (very early compared to the evening starting-time fixed at 9.00 pm) and therefore it was impossible for us to be in attendance.
As agreed we reached the Teatro Romano at 8.00 pm where we found Alberto Fornasari (responsible for the two Italian dates) and Alfio Cantarella (one of the two organisers of Verona Beat Festival and former drummer of Equipe 84, a very popular Italian band in the 1960s/1970s). A small table was soon found and placed at the entrance with some t-shirts and CDs available for sale.
One of the first to come in was Gianluigi Stella, arrived from Bologna where he studies, together with his father who was coming expressly from Catanzaro to join his son for the concert. Another example of father and son who felt in love with Procol Harum music!
Due to our commitment to sell Procol merchandise we were unable to watch and hear the other six artists comprising the Friday-evening cast. They were: I Condors, Dino, Gian Pieretti, Mal, I Ribelli and Rugantino Band, all very popular Italian artist during the 1960s.
At 11.30 pm – in agreement with Chris, who from time to time was with us at the selling point – we decided to suspend the sale of merchandise and take a seat at the Arena where finally Procol Harum started playing some minutes after.
After some little sound problems in the first songs the band was able to perform their concert in front of a nearly-sold-out Teatro Romano (some 1,500 people). This wasn’t a bad result considering that, simultaneously, the Italian national football team was playing its second match of the European championship in Portugal. The football match ended with a draw: I would say that the same result was applicable to the PH concert.
In fact they played a very short set (only 13 songs) because of the ending time limit requirement, and without songs like The Signature and Repent Walpurgis that were always in the Procol setlist during the 2003 concerts. Probably this was due to the absence of Matthew Fisher, replaced by Josh Phillips – who did well considering he had joined the band only four days before.
The audience, also if tired by the 2.5 hours of music, clapped the band at the end of each song and especially, as usual, at the end of their most popular ones like Homburg, A Salty Dog and A Whiter Shade of Pale.
Just before the end of the concert, as agreed with Chris, we reopened the sale of merchandise and this gave us the opportunity to sell some more CDs while the people were leaving the venue.
As usual, at the end of the concert, the band welcomed some supporters chasing for autographs and signature of records. We stayed with the band until 2.00 am and had the opportunity to speak with them on various issues including the new song Victims of the Fury. Chris Cooke and Gary expressed their gratitude, especially to Andrea, for our help in the sale of merchandise.
We went to sleep thinking already that another day of music with Procol Harum was waiting for us.
Procol Harum concerts in 2004: index page
Stefano's pictures from this concert