Procul [sic] Harum : Town Hall New York
In 1967, the English
band Procol Harum earned a footnote in pop history for A Whiter Shade of Pale,
a funereal rock ballad with an organ theme borrowed from JS Bach's cantata
Sleepers Awake and a phantasmagoric lyric by Keith Reid, the band's
The song, for all its pretensions, remains a striking pop dirge. And at Town Hall, where a reunited Procol Harum performed on Thursday evening, its performance proved to be one of the concert's few listenable moments.
Procol Harum built its sound on a mixture of organ, electric guitar, slogging rock drums and the oratorical singing of Gary Brooker, the band's lead singer, pianist and melodist. But a style that at one time seemed to augur a promising rock-classical fusion seems hopelessly naive and shallow today.
The lineup included Mr Brooker and the band's original organist, Matthew Fisher, along with Mark Brzezicki on drums, Dave Bronze on bass and Tim Renwick, who replaced Procol Harum's original guitarist, Robin Trower, at the last minute.
In a set that included several mediocre songs from the band's reunion album, The Prodigal Stranger, Mr Brzezicki's overbearing drums continually fractured songs that lurched, huffing and puffing, toward a bogus pop grandeur. Vocally, Mr Brooker handled the ballads ably enough. But in the uptempo numbers, he resorted to off-pitch bellowing that made the music seem not only dated but also buffoonish.