Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at Moscow • 13 October 2009

Concert reviewed by Ivan Sushkov

Procol played their only Moscow concert at Sport Palace, Luzhniki. The house was half full, and everybody was seated in the front section of the hall.

The sound, particularly compared with the Kremlin concert in 2001, might be described as too harsh and not very well balanced.

About a half (and maybe more) of the setlist were Procol classics from the '60s, the other half being later numbers. Personally, I would prefer a programme compiled exclusively from their classical songs, and I believe that most of Russian admirers of Procol would agree with me on this point.

Mr Brooker sang very well and was generally in a very good form. But if he had brought with him a concert grand or ordered one locally for this show, it would have been more in Procol style (both visually and sonically) than the electronic, clanging Yamaha he played. Mr Whitehorn’s hard-rock-style playing sat somewhat uneasy with the classical aesthetics of Procol Harum. There was too much of guitar (in the songs where it should have been exactly otherwise), and the subtle balance which has always been a Procol feature, was affected.

Generally speaking, the band’s playing lacked subtlety. They were too straightforward, too quick in building the sonic climaxes for which Procol are so famous. Even Mr Brooker’s touch in the opening bars of Salty Dog was harsh, and crescendos were too rushed more often than not. Worth special mention is an ingenious way of seguing the Russian (or, rather, Soviet) national anthem into A Whiter Shade of Pale at the very end of the show.

Mr Phillips’s instrumental duel with Mr Whitehorn in one of the songs was interesting to hear, but generally Mr Phillips’s playing was less delicate than Mr Fisher’s (in 2001). By way of comparison, Mr Fisher had remained calmly seated throughout the concert and had been less mobile at the keyboard.

Despite all these critical remarks, I do not for a minute regret having been at the show. Procol has secured for themselves a place in rock history, and listening to their classical numbers is always a delight. But I definitely feel that the band today would benefit from a stronger presence of the people who had contributed in the '60s to creating the definitive and unique sound of Procol Harum.

Procol Harum concerts in 2009: index page


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