GB: "I'm sorry I don't speak Danish. I know only two words in Danish:
Tak ('thanks'), and oel ('beer'). Do you all understand English?
GB: "No wonder we're among friends."
And Procol Harum were indeed among friends last night in Copenhagen. In fact, no less than 1,100 of them in a converted warehouse that was all-but sold out (only two or three tickets left, one official told me). The huge crowd packed the large room, and Procol Harum really got the audience on their feet – and not only because it was a standing-only venue.
The atmosphere was electric right from the start and the lighting and sound
were superb (a positive surprise since the warm-up band sounded terrible). Over
the years many English bands from Kinks and Procol Harum to Suede have seemed to
be more popular in Denmark than in England and Procol have always had a
stronghold in Copenhagen. However, if you have seen the DVD Procol Harum Live
in Copenhagen and were at the show yesterday you would have noticed a
big difference. The smaller polite, appreciative, seated crowd from the
substituted by a large happy, swaying, singing, mainly grey-headed or -bearded crowd and the band truly responded by looking almost overwhelmed by the goodwill that flowed towards the scene and by putting on a truly superb show.
This was not a nostalgia act running through a routine of old hits. This was a contemporary band with true relevance for 2005 but with forty years of catalogue to choose from, although it was appreciated when Gary Brooker introduced a song with the words: "This song is from 1968. Would you believe that's twenty-five years ago...!" The musicianship was excellent and the team spirit within the band seemed to be great.
Everyone really seemed to enjoy themselves and the little friendly 'game within the game' between the handsome Matt Pegg (looking like a young executive in his suit and tie) and new organist Josh Phillips was great to witness. I have a feeling there is much more of a showman in MP than he lets himself show? Geoff Whitehorn was at his usual best, having a great rapport with the crowd, but the really positive surprise for me was to see and hear Mark Brzezicki's drumming. I have read somewhere that some musicians don't rate drummers very highly but to be a drummer with Procol Harum is so much more than just pounding the right rhythm. The long In Held 'Twas in I was played – and received – almost like a symphony and Mark more than played his part in this extraordinary piece of music.
And Mr Brooker himself? Well, another great thing about the show was that GB's voice was in absolute top form, hitting even the highest notes clearly and easily and showing no signs of the wear and tear some older (pardon!) rock singers' voices do. His piano playing was, of course, immaculate. I enjoyed watching the warm handshakes he gave his band members at the end of the show (very dignified, no backslapping here) in appreciation of their great performances.
If I have to make a tiny bit of criticism it would have to be that the show was too short! We can't help feeling a bit jealous of the French who got nineteen songs when we Danes only got fourteen! But then we got In Held 'Twas in I ... . Anyway, what I'm trying to say, as far as the crowd was concerned, the band could have gone on forever. The Copenhageners love Procol Harum and by the look of the band as they waved goodbye, I can't help thinking that the feeling just might be mutual ...