By Svein Harald Moe, translated into English by Jens Anders Ravnaas
Procol Harum, British veteran rockers, managed to attract only about 500 listeners in Sørlandshallen Saturday night. Because of this, the promoters end up with a loss.
The veteran band Procol Harum created excitement in Sørlandshallen on Saturday night. In the front is guitar player Geoff Whitehorn: in the back we get a glimpse of the band's front man, Gary Brooker.
Kristiansand: – 'We'll probably end up with a loss of about 100,000 (Norwegian kroner),' Gunnar Thommesen from the promoters, Best Entertainment Group, tells Fedrelandsvennen.
But that doesn't prevent those present from having a nice evening. Most of them probably came to hear the band perform A Whiter Shade of Pale – one of rock history's strongest ballads, blended with four bars of Bach's Air. For this band with the difficult name is by most people connected only to this song, even though they released ten albums between 1967 and 1977. After break-ups and reunions there has been more, but none of the songs has had a success anywhere near A Whiter Shade of Pale.
Last Saturday it was exactly – to the day – 34 years since it entered the hit lists in England. The song remained in the charts for 11 weeks, and continued its success all over the world. Since that there have been more than 200 cover versions of it.
With candles burning on the tables in a limited part of Sørlandshallen, the audience first got acquainted with the city's own James Band, young musicians with lots of energy on stage. They performed some songs from their latest recording project. The band is going to play on this summer's Quart Festival and hope to have a new self-financed vinyl record ready by then.
And now it was the veterans' turn, Procol Harum – the band that was originally named after a cat. The front man, grey-haired Gary Brooker (56), sat down by the piano and rushed into Bringing Home the Bacon, Shine on Brightly and Homburg – lots of hard and sharp 70s rock performed with a very generous volume. Broker has still got a tremendous soul voice, so powerful that we sometimes wondered if it was necessary for him to have a microphone. To put it this way: the only thing Brooker has in common with the co-eval Olsen Brothers from Denmark is that they make records.
Even the generation below Brooker, the Kristiansand people in James Band, were impressed. The lead singer Trond Breen (28) said it like this:
'The first thing that came to mind was that Brooker has a fantastic voice. I have one of their albums at home, so we know their music, and we really have looked forward to hearing them. There isn't much difference between generations here, we're expressing much the same thing. But I think we have more intensity,' said Breen.
From the original band Brooker had with him Matthew Fisher on Hammond, the man who will always be remembered by the wonderful Bach inspired intro to A Whiter Shade of Pale. The rest of the band members have been replaced during three and a half decades.
Close to the stage were some of the band's most loyal fans, travelling from many parts of the country; they are in contact with each other through the band's own website. 60 of them also assembled for a major 'Vorspiel' at the Quality Hotel from 3 in the afternoon this Saturday. Here they formed their own house band for the occasion and performed Procol Harum songs for each other. Members of Procol Harum also appeared, and the spirit ran high when videos from earlier concerts were showed and a signed t-shirt was raffled – all hosted by the veteran band's biggest fan in Kristiansand, Jens Anders Ravnaas. With an English friend he also runs the band's website (www.procolharum.com)
A Whiter Shade of Pale came last. Obviously at the very end – as a kind of encore. Even though some had been dancing during the concert, even though someone had lit a lighter or two, a major mood change occurred at that time. Even the stiffest of 'salt pillars' among the audience was completely dissolved: lips met and women's behinds, many of them well-aged, were intensely and lovingly fondled.
Gary Brooker sang 'We skipped the light fandango, turned cartwheels cross the floor, I was feeling kind of seasick, but the crowd called out for more' – and the world suddenly became a more beautiful place to be.
The concert was recorded by NRK P1. It will be aired on the radio later. And today the band is in Russia for more concerts.
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