Procol Harum: Anno Domini 2005
About an uncommon concert on 6 March
New tour of Procol Harum, a legendary rock formation, has just begun. They will soon in less than two years celebrate their 40th anniversary (2007). For many rock fans they may be just one hit group, OK but what a hit! A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967) was sold in millions of copies and was recently voted as second mostly listened song in Britain for last fifty years (after Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody but before Lennon’s Imagine).
However, more sophisticated rock fans would recall a couple of other group’s hits such as A Salty Dog, Conquistador, Grand Hotel or Homburg. Two years ago the group leading by Gary Brooker released a new studio CD called The Well’s on Fire and published two DVD concerts (the latter one Live at Union Chapel in 2004).
This year tour which was commenced by Bloomsbury Theatre, London appearance on 6 March, brought a few surprises. First was a new Hammond player, Josh Phillips, who replaced Matthew Fisher playing in Procol’s first line up. Josh (who played before with Roger Daltrey and Big Country, among others) performance was impeteus, brought new energy in the group, and was in many opinions even better than that of old Procol’s Hammond veteran. Next surprise was astonishingly excellent voice of Gary Brooker, the band’s leader, composer, singer and pianist. Late Douglas Adams, well-known British writer, said once about him that “most people don't know what a jewel he is”. We all hope that Brooker’s great vocal form may be soon heard in his new productions.
London’s gig was also remarkable for another reason, live performance of In Held 'Twas in I, a suite from Shine On Brightly second group album (1968), also released live in best selling group’s album Live with Edmonton Symphony Orchestra (1972). And similar to old years of group’s famous performances, Keith Reid, writer of almost all Procol’s songs showed upon the stage. The poet who lives in New York delivered barely one-minute monologue in the first part of the suite (Glimpses of Nirvana), almost in the same way as during that concert of 1971. And it was great! Then we listened to something beautiful though unknown, a song called Victims of the Fury. Anything new announcing a new group's album? No, unfortunately not, rather something from old stuff never released. One is sure, the band is in great form, rocking level, mixing together music styles, tones and sounds into unforgettable and unique music. This all announced by Gary Brooker with his English sense of humour…
Perhaps they will come to Poland again. After Bloomsbury’s gig Mark Brzezicki, the drummer, and Josh Philips interviewed by one of Polish radio stations advised they would gladly visit our country again. But I don’t want to put a jinx on it.
Soon the group will be performing in Paris Olympia followed by concerts in Scandinavia, Germany and Switzerland (visit website www.procolharum.com for further details). The new tour is also interesting for another reason. So far their gigs had similar set ups, mixing old hits with later production. This year Brooker decided to change that pattern and play old but less known songs such as The Idol, Something Following Me (from their first album!), Toujours l’Amour or Luskus Delph which revealed their true beauty. Sometimes you may feel tired with all those hits played over and over again. But would you tell it about A Whiter Shade of Pale, would it be boring at all?
Procol Harum line up: Gary Brooker (vocal, piano), Keith Reid (words), Mark Brzezicki (drums), Geoff Whitehorn (guitar) and Matt Pegg (bass).
PS. See also at “Procol Harum in London”:
(Onet Photo Gallery).
The above piece appeared in Mirek's native Polish at