Procol Harum

the Pale 

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‘Procol Rarum’ − the lost songs of Brooker/Reid

Saturday 21 July 2007: Theo Miller tells his tale

BtP presentsProcol Harum's 40th Birthday Celebrations 20 / 21 July 2007

Is it possible to be more impressed after forty years? This was a tantalising question, especially as I had so often been pleasantly surprised over those four decades. But was this asking too much; was this beyond the pale?

Having followed these men at such distances, and at such close quarters, how could I possibly expect to arrive at any kind of dispassionate judgement, let alone experience the exquisite quivers of adolescent excitement that music alone has the capacity to produce?

Picture from Axel Leonhardt ... thanks!Yes, this was indeed a moment of truth, and so much had passed between us all. We had wordlessly witnessed the unedifying spectacle of two parents who could rightly claim full parentage squabbling over their now full-grown creation. On the other hand, we were also lucky enough to have witnessed the re-embrace of a son who was prodigiously talented and personable. How could any of us have expected or hoped for more, especially after the wonderful performance we had been privileged to attend on the Friday night.

But I would like to pay tribute to the genius that is Gary Brooker. No matter what your view is of the man (and there are quite a few strongly held ones), I was not at all prepared for what he gave to us all on the Saturday night with Procol Rarum. I know there were others who graced the stage that night: the ever-generous and good humoured Geoff Whitehorn (whose own genius is rarely appreciated), the very underestimated Josh Phillips (who has continued Procol’s long tradition of unearthing the finest in keyboard players), the wonderful and long-missed  Dave Ball whose talent continues to shine on brightly, the gifted Matt Pegg (who is just so reliable and perfect), Martin Wright (who is so innocently talented), and the rest of the comforting Shoes.

Many will say it’s only popular/prog/rock music, but rarely have I been transfixed and  transcended as I was that July eve in Westminster. To say that, even that, sounds like hyperbole. We all have our favourites whom we follow and proselytise, and we might have expected our age and experience should dull some of our more exuberant enthusiasms and youthful allegiances. But I bathed in that something magic that Brooker can do, and felt so enlivened by the experience, which is still truly eerie after all these years and tides and times.

Brooker was magnificent as he trawled through a corpus of work that ensures his stature will be one of  third millennium distinction. From Dusty Springfield, and movie music to country; it was a rare and inspiring passage of discovery. But I was left most amazed and strangely fortified (as I had been for most of the previous forty years) by Gary and Josh’s rendering of  the familiar strains from Procol '67.  Indeed I cannot recall such awe and wonder I felt listening to the songs and the singing.

Admittedly this was the response of a fan(atic) – as Keith used to describe them – but this night was of another world and time for me. Having already seen how much love has been generated by the music of Procol Harum, this was of a different kind. Such talents rarely visit our mundane stages, and we can only read about or listen to recordings of most of them. But we were here to hear, and be truly thankful that we were.

Though I know it sounds cloying to say, it was truly one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. Thank you Mr Brooker, it was sheer privilege to hear you play your songs.

Theo Miller (more from Theo here)

More about the 40th anniversary celebrations | Friday aftershow party booking

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