Longwood Gardens was a lovely venue for the show. Though the day was
extremely warm and humid, any thunderstorms thankfully stood at bay. At sound
check, my wife and I made the acquaintance of Evan Wagshul, down from New York
to see his fourth show of the tour, if I recall correctly. I've since seen him
here on the BtP site. We traded memories of shows going back to 1971, when we
each first saw Procol for the first time, with Dave Ball. Hard to comprehend
nearly forty years have passed and still there'll be more, so to speak.
One highlight for me was at soundcheck, when Geoff Whitehorn started playing the melody to Somewhere Over the Rainbow and the rest of the band fell in, with Gary channelling his inner Brother Ray Charles. It was beautiful and soulful – perhaps we'll hear it as an encore someday.
The emcee for the evening, Michael Tearson, is a long-time Philadelphia disc jockey going back to the late 60s. He's always been a big supporter of the band. I recall him announcing a couple of shows in the 70s, so it was most apt to see him there.
The band came thundering on with Cerdes, loud and menacing, even. I don't recall hearing it live before. Another high point for me was the return to the original arrangement of As Strong as Samson and its stately majesty.
Both Geoff Dunn and Josh are solid additions to the line-up. As Evan has noted, Geoff really plays the songs, not just keeping time. Tough spot to follow in a chair once held by BJ Wilson. Josh brings some animation and enthusiasm to the organ bench, which is welcome. The entire band looked fully engaged and happy in their playing. Gary was his usual amiable and funny self.
Hearing Sister Mary was a pleasant surprise – I didn't realise so much new material was in the works. I look forward to hearing what eventually comes out of the studio. I can remember hearing Bringing Home the Bacon and Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) in concert perhaps a year before their release on vinyl. It will be interesting to hear how the new songs evolve before they're committed to, well, not to tape, but to digital 1s and 0s on some storage medium.
All in all, it was a lovely evening amongst old friends, enjoying music that's been a mainstay of my life.
Oh – I'd be remiss not to mention the opening act, Renaissance. I'd not heard anything of them for thirty years or so. Annie Haslam was in terrific voice and they were a perfect way to begin the evening.
Famous fountains at Longwood Garden
Stage setup at the outdoor amphitheatre. Gary noted the garden was much like George Harrison’s, but “smaller”
Water lily garden outside the conservatory
A room inside the conservatory. That’s water, not an incredibly shiny floor.