Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum • Winterswijk, Netherlands

Pictures from Frank Matheus • 24 November 2007

I was a lucky man to attend two Procol Harum concerts on their current theatre-tour in Holland; first one was Hengelo, which I visited with my family: my wife and two teenage daughters. When we left the venue, Tokio Hotel had two fans less!

The Winterswijk gig was the last in the Netherlands, seeing the band leaving to Italy. So it was a special evening for the musicians, saying good-bye to a country which had put up the band very warmly and visibly acknowledged their music. The band wanted to make it a very exceptional evening, so Gary said, and they did.

It was a wise decision to play theatre-halls; the venues are well-built, not too big and have a fine acoustic, and people in their middle age prefer to sit. So the theatre in Winterswijk was sold out, and about 1,000 people were swept away by the band’s fantastic music.

Gary was joking all the time. He had bought a kind of  orange cloth, wondering for what purpose it was good. He said, he had put it on his hat, but with no effect. On some of the pictures it is to be seen on the left side of his D-Piano, where he put it as a mascot. Gary found a lot of sympathy in the audience, when he complained the lost games of the English soccer team and demanded to go back to the roots: to the kind of sport English people can do best, namely with one hand (eg darts), so that they can drink with the other one.

Now the music: It was the first time for me to see the band in the current line-up, and I was very eager to experience new elements and aspects in their music. I was not disappointed. To warm up, the band started with a brilliant Bacon with lots of space for the organ to be followed by The VIP Room. The third piece was Shine on Brightly, and here something happened I have never seen before: the band smashed the song. Something went wrong, and they had to restart. As we all know, Procol is one of the best live-acts on this planet; so it was a bit awkward. Gary apologised, and now they had to prove that they really are the top.

Everyone gave his best from this point, and the audience got the benefit of this effort.  Right the next song showed the fantastic capability, especially of the new members. Geoff  contributed a very tight drumming, bringing Pandora's Box to its essence, and Josh added a tasteful solo at the point where the tune restarts (hope he doesn’t claim writing credits). The following song Learn to Fly sounded very different from the studio version (which, I admit, I usually skip, when listening to Prodigal), and it sounded good: very up-tempo, very straight, very heavy. The highlight of the first set was its last song, Simple Sister, to my mind one of the best rock songs ever. Josh used the synthesizer, and the drummer added some stunning and surprising turns, changes of rhythm.

After the intermission we listened to two new songs, which got under our skin. The impressing Missing Persons and the melodic One Eye on the Future. The last song was particularly dedicated to Al 'One-Eye' Edelist, and Gary emphasised that “he is the man who pays us”.  Two more premičres: the band played The Devil Came from Kansas for the first time since their reunion, and it was an overwhelming song. Here was the place for Geoff’s guitar solo, and he added some new dimensions to this song. Absolutely brilliant.

The second song was borrowed from a bloke named Gary Brooker, and the Commander told us, that he was a good friend of his (“I sleep with him”). So Procol played a Brooker solo song: Hang on Rose. I would’ve preferred to hear Low Flying Birds or (No More) Fear of Flying, but the song worked as a Procol Harum title as well, and we all enjoyed it.

Last song was a most beautiful A Salty Dog, framed with excellent drumming, and the encore was, of course, AWSoP, initiated by Air, When a Man Loves a Woman and No Woman, No Cry, which melted into the melody of 'The Miller's Tale'.

People gave standing ovation. Gary and the band acknowledged the enthusiastic audience and bowed at least three times (but didn’t play any more songs, which we would have enjoyed better). The Commander dismissed us with good wishes and God’s blessing, and home went a happy crowd.

Procol dates in 2007

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