Procol Harum

Beyond
the Pale

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Procol Harum at Clarkson, MI, USA

Howard Christie reports 6 August 2012


I was born in Blackpool England but came to Canada when I was five and lived in Windsor Ontario for many years. As a result my first Procol sightings were just across the river in Detroit Michigan. As, I think, noted in the voluminous concert chronology that is on the site, I saw them in the early 70s at the Grande Ballroom (with King Crimson and Blues Project) at the Ford Auditorium (with, I think Tranquility and Leo Kottke) and also at the Ford (with Steeleye Span and Tir na Nog). Having left the area for college I never saw them at Pine Knob which was the Detroit area version of the outdoor sheds that we Americans love so much, so it was exciting to be able to finally do that as they opened for Yes.

I now live in the Cleveland area so my wife and I made the 197 mile trip to Clarkston Michigan, north of Detroit to what is now called DTE Music Center (formerly Pine Knob). 15,000 seater, between pavilion and lawn seats. Show at 7:30. Nice warm night, lots of old white guys like me with their wives, with a sprinkling of younger folks. Lots of Yes tee-shirts walking around but I did spot one PH shirt. Sparse crowd, doubt if it was half full, maybe a third. This was accentuated by our pavilion tickets which had been $45 but  when I went on line were $7: that's right $7 or, as the English say, 3 lbs. So $14 for two tickets with fees of $16 (more than the tickets) but still essentially $15 bucks each. Two different PH t-shirts were $35 which seemed a bit  much to me so I didn't bite, hopefully the website will get the leftovers.

The Set
It is the same as it has been through almost the entire tour: a one-hour show of ten songs including all the big ones that Yes fans would appreciate. While I understand the concern of those able to go to several shows, I also think PH feels that  with an audience who might have forgotten them it makes sense to hit them with the big guns and maybe gain a few more fans. I really didn't have any problems with the set. I could always survive without Wall Street and while I like Homburg on record, it is a little slim for live work. I love Strong as Samson on record but it also did not seem to resonate live as well as it should. I will put in my usual plea for Salad Days, would love to hear Gary and Josh on duelling keyboards ... it is a great song.

Wall Street Blues / Pandora's Box / As Strong as Samson / Homburg / An Old English Dream / A Salty Dog Simple Sister
Cerdes (Outside the Gates of) / A Whiter Shade of Pale / Conquistador

The Show
Well of course it was great and I say that realizing I am a big fan. The sound was excellent, and the playing seemed the same to my untrained ears. Gary's voice really is remarkable. I will say again, that whoever is recording his voice needs to change something as he sounds so much better live than on the recent recordings and than on the recent live recordings. A fullness to his voice, none of the roughness that seems to appear on record. Geoff's guitar stuff really was excellent, but I have to admit I was feeling a bit  guitar-solo-overloaded  by the end, though I imagine I am in the minority. I like the 'new' drummer, he does not seem to be a subtle player certainly like BJ, but I think he gives PH more oomph than Mark did , more power in general.

Highlights were Pandora's Box: I love what they have done with this, turning it from a simple three-minute song into a joyous 6-7 minute organ fest and Josh is wonderful here. It can stay in the set for a long time as far as I am concerned. Salty Dog was really fabulous: I  got a little teary-eyed as Gary sucked back all he could to hit the big note, it was just wonderful and I love what Josh does to flesh it out and make it more orchestral. Big standing O for a classic song. It was down then to Cerdes with that great bass beat and the big finish with a nice AWSoP (though again I may be in the minority who does not want this messed with, it is an organ song and changing it to a guitar song changes the song too much and not for the better). Yes, even the Yes crowd called out for more at just the right moment!

 A rousing Conquistador and once again the crowd was on their feet for the boys' final bow, the hour done.

Gary
Hard to believe he has been doing this over forty years, but he seems to maintain his interest and enjoyment despite the millions of times he has played these songs. As usual his between-song banter makes for an interesting show, though it was a little hard  to hear. He also referenced Pine Knob and The Grande Ballroom, the older Detroit places he had been at so many years ago. Geoff introduced him as our fearless leader, and he noted "not so fearless any more". I  guess one of the things about a shorter show is that you don't get Gary doing his thing between songs as much as a full show. And his voice was really wonderful, vibrant, strong, hitting the notes and if you read the reviews at Ticketmaster, it  is one thing that amazes a lot of Yes fans. PH gets lots of good reviews on that site also

Home
We  left after Procol which was 8:30 as we had a long drive back to the Cleveland area. So no Yes, but the hour of Procol was great and I was pretty satisfied. Put the PH playlist on the iPod in the car and got home at midnight with unfortunately work the next  morning. We always feel this is the last time we can see them over here, and we keep getting surprised; and while over here we are unlikely to get the full shows our European friends get, we are thrilled to see them in any form. Hoping for more next year.  I had  debated about going because of the six-hour driving day for one hour of music, but very happy I went ... any PH fans in the same boat, just go, you will be glad you did.


Procol dates in 2012

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