Procol Harum

Beyond the Pale

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'Anyone for tennis?'

asks Richard Solly

Wimbledon, the home of tennis, is also the home of a fine theatre.

I'd been there some months prior to see King Lear but 10 November 1974 was far more dramatic.

It's not until you sit in the front row you realize how stiff your neck gets but we could see all the to-ing and fro-ing on stage. As I shuffled in trying not to trip over my very fashionable flare trousers I sat in the front row narrowly avoiding the huge collar of my shirt poking my eye out I settled down for my third Procol concert.

Having skimmed the programme I noticed the usual collection of people scurrying around on the stage. In the middle were a couple of sweating, shaking people who were being kept hot and cold at the same time by the basilisk stare of the guy in the middle ... who said nothing. It was Gary Brooker.

No-one knew what was happening until a little man in a suit with a briefcase and some equipment last used in the Spanish Inquisition appeared. He's on the piano!!!... Is he the warm-up man? ... no, he's a piano tuner. 45 minutes later the show started. The dramatic use of lighting whilst this poor man was on blew King Lear from my memory.

This was a long show with an interval.

My recollections are hearing Salad Days and Robert's Box in the first half. After Thin End of the Wedge came the Adagio. A new song, The Poet (the original Without A Doubt) stripped to the basics and up-tempo as I remember.

Grand Hotel had I Get A Kick Out Of You in the middle of it whilst Power Failure finished the first half (I think).Well the drum solo was furious. I'm always a sucker for an octopus.

Tracks from Home had an outing as well the newie Exotic Birds and Fruit. They played it all except Fresh Fruit and New Lamps. Monsieur R. Monde featured Gary on guitar and Chris Copping on the old Joanna.

We had an encore of Be Bop A Lula / Old Black Joe and A Whiter Shade of Pale.

A truly memorable night. Salad Days indeed.

Thanks, Richard

Phillip Parfitt writes to BtP (May 2007)

Just got round to buying a few Procol CDs to replace the vinyl I lost in the 70s and came across your website! I saw Procol Harum at Wimbledon Theatre in 1974, but 33  years later the memory is fading. I do remember Whiter Shade of Pale as an encore (fab!!) and the theatre had large pillars supporting the roof which obscure the view a little. But what I remember is a great gig and quality music. Great memories and enjoying listening to these albums after many years. Sorry I cannot recall any more about the show. 

More concerts reported at BtP

New Musical Express reviews two more concerts from this tour

More London gigs reported by Richard Solly | The gig from the night before

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