Paris Olympia, 14 March ... waiting from the band. First impression and somehow a disappointment: on stage, before the set, the roadies were busy with an electric piano. I was wondering ... Gary Brooker’s original sound is not the one from an electric piano. Anyway, let us wait for the music, the band will not be the original band either. Time is not to think about the past, but how could I escape from remembering the first time I saw Procol Harum on stage, at the Paris Olympia, 25 September 1967 ...
The show began late, very late (after the fine gig by Hot Tuna, and the long one by Manfred Mann's Earth Band). Yet, the first notes took us already into the magic. The VIP Room, from the last CD, was a strong introduction. And the second piece was Homburg, a moody melody, for me the best I ever heard in the late sixties. At the Paris Olympia in 1967 Procol Harum played their first LP and the only song I knew was A Whiter Shade of Pale. They ended the show introducing Homburg, which they played twice. Since that moment the song never left my mind … Homburg : nostalgia was there, as anticipated … And the sound of the electric piano was OK. After all it was Gary's fingers on the clavier ...
The following songs added to the nostalgia. Luskus Delph especially, one of the most exquisite songs signed Brooker/Reid. It has been a long time since I met the "sweet oyster girl"! Then Shine on Brightly (very bright) and I was feeling the deep pleasure of listening to Procol Harum music, to Gary Brooker's music. Indeed the band played in a perfect way. Gary's voice rapidly reached its peak. Everything was all right ... Geoff Whitehorn was fine, Mark Brzezicki was fine but I realized that I missed so much BJ Wilson and his unique drumming : nostalgia was there as I said.
But not only nostalgia. An Old English Dream and Shadow Boxed were there to prove that we were in 2005. And if Gary, before singing in French Trick of the Night, recalled his souvenirs from the Paris Olympia forty years ago when he met a French girl named Françoise, his last CD says "merci" to Madame Françoise, as we all noticed ...
The ending of the show included first class interpretations of Grand Hotel, Conquistador ("c'est énorme!" shouted close to me a guy in his fifties, like me). Finally, Salty Dog was superb, absolutely superb. Simply, we were offered this night a bunch of several of the most marvellous pop songs ever produced in the sixties and seventies. The band went back to play Kaleidoscope from the first LP and A Whiter Shade of Pale, played very seriously as it deserves, also a mean to show that since the very beginning Procol Harum came with its own unique musical and poetic universe, and this universe still speaks to us.
When I left the Olympia, it was around half past midnight. On the way to my home the songs in my head were An Old English Dream and Shadow Boxed, from the last CD. These songs could have been in any of the LPs of the brilliant decade 1967-1977 as Kaleidoscope could have been in "The well's on fire". There is probably something to learn from this ! Even if the band did not play Something Magic, this night in Paris was, definitely, something magic!
|More Procol writings from Frans Steensma|