Ah imagine my surprise ... and likely everyone's, when we heard
that North America was getting a second dose of Procol this year. I kind of
figured that the two shows I saw in June were likely my last ever. Let's face
it, they don't cross the pond very often anyway and Gary isn't getting any
younger (like the rest of us), so a chance at a full show could not be missed.
So off I went for the 660-mile round-trip to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania from Berea
(near Cleveland), Ohio, so about 5½ hours' drive each way.
Harrisburg is the state capital of Pennsylvania (about two hours from New York City) and is on the river and seems like a nice town, but it was a rainy day. The Forum is a gorgeous old round building, looking like a great government edifice. It is owned by the state and the library is the back of the circle and the theatre is the front. It seats about 1,600 and was likely only a fourth full at the most, so lots of folks missed a great show. They did have black tee-shirts for twenty bucks but no unfamiliar DVDs or CDs for sale.
I noticed a good number of Palers whom I recognised by sight if
not by name. One-Eye, George Lowell and several others: I ran into Unsteady
Freddy on the street earlier in the day and introduced myself.
The show was lots of fun. Gary mentioned they had a little jetlag and had only been in the States twelve hours and I think it was hitting him a bit, but still a terrific show. Brief opening act, guy with keyboard (Leigh Goldstein), who was a big Procol fan and had a nice voice and was pretty engaging. He mentioned he heard part of In Held at the sound check, but I was pretty sure we were not getting that, and we didn't.
We got a lot though and I'm sure the set list will be posted so I just want to comment on a few songs. Wall Street Blues, not a favourite of mine, but Geoff's solo on this made it really soar and with that guitar soloing it can be on the set list any day. Strangers in Space I had never heard live though I know they did it this summer in the headlining shows. It seems like such an un-Procol song to me but it was eerie and yet powerful and a really unexpected treat: little Matt-solo action too which I think is a first, again except for this summer.
Juicy John Pink always seemed out of place on A Salty Dog, as eclectic as that album is, and it never hit me. Live however is a completely different story. It was tons of fun and I could have heard several minutes more of this little chugger. I'm sure Robin would be smiling and loving it. I had seen the YouTube clip of Barnyard Story live, but it was still great to hear how that little song was given such new life. All of these for me illustrated what a great band can do with average or OK material (imo) when they tweak things and just have a go at them live. Fabulous. Would love to hear Salad Days somewhere along the line.
They finished with Kaleidoscope, again no great favourite of mine but it was a terrific closer with lots of steam and really a lot more power than the recorded version.
So they left the stage and had done none of the big three, which is kind of unusual: at least one of them usually pops up. The encore took care of that, with A Salty Dog, Conquistador and then – when it looked like they would leave without A Whiter Shade of Pale – a small pow-wow and Gary then said, "For anyone perhaps seeing them for the first time who might be disappointed if it was not played," and those organ chords began. They proceeded to kick butt with two verses and a third verse done by Geoff on guitar.
Really wonderful show, with Gary being his witty self, though he seemed a little tired perhaps. That being said, he was still energised in his playing and singing, and I still say he sounds much better live than on any of the later recordings. He did Wandering Star à la Lee Marvin and the boys did Hey Hey We're the Procols à la the Monkees to add to the Schtick.
Geoff's guitar work is really remarkable and his solos are always melodic: the guy is just fantastic. Nice to see Matt get a little solo work and it was great. Josh's solo stuff either mimicked the originals perfectly or was great in its own right. I was on the Gary side of the stage, so I couldn't actually see the keyboard. And Geoff Dunn, I think, just makes Procol more powerful when they need to be. Geoff Whitehorn blocked my view of the drum kit, but I know what I heard.
Run, don't walk, this may truly be our last chance on this side of the pond. I do hope either the cameras or the audio people will be at Edmonton, as they likely will get the In Held 'Twas in I that we were teased with.