The message went out on the Procol list: would Palers like to suggest "The Ideal Set", of about two hours, for Procol Harum to play live in the year 2000? Fans' suggestions started to pour in : then we started to get fantasy concert reviews …please send more if you wish!
Hey guys! Here is a combined setlist/farcical review of a Procol Harum 2000 gig in Brisbane, Australia.
As Gary Brooker once said in New Lamps for Old, it was indeed the end of the evening, but that barely made an impact on the tempestuous influx of fans into Festival Hall. As the crowd was silenced by the dimming of the lights, a seagull was released from a cage from the middle of the stage. It flew up, up, and away in that order. Many fans were left bemused by this poor-man's act of peace. But all soon became clear when the awkward piano chord comprising of C#, F and G began A Salty Dog. A half-cheer erupted from the ground floor, and some of the elderly ladies in the audience had to be temporarily removed due to their behaviour. A dim light shone on the far right of the stage, barely illuminating Gary Brooker as he sang the first verse. As soon as the drums kicked in, the stage was flooded with technicolour lights which danced as if they were being influenced by the music itself (in fact, they were. This was a new Australian invention called, funnily enough, "Technicolour Lights which Dance as if They Are etc.).
The song ended, and hands were left blood red after the applause had died down. "Thank you ... " mumbled Gary, painfully aware that he had managed to hit a bum note during the last song, which no-one had noticed but him. "This next song, was written." Such was his dry, deadpan wit. He gave a customary rock'n'roll intro to the band, and the opening bars of Still There'll Be More flooded the free space of the hall. Mick Grabham, playing a Gibson Epiphone for some reason, made the solo guitar break seem as if he was breathing it. In fact, he wasn't actually playing. He was standing close to a microphone and humming the notes. Still sounded good ... .
Gary piped up again. "I know that song may have offended some of you ... " , a reference to the elderly ladies who had fainted hearing such language, "And that's why I think we should play something a bit more laid back. Hit it, Mister Grabham!!", and thus saying, the band leapt into Killing In The Name by Rage Against the Machine. This was way too much for the elderly ladies who either left or were carried out on a stretcher. But the reason for this odd change in the regular setlist was soon explained. "Now we've got rid of those old farts, let's get back to business!"
The opening riff of Whisky Train stung the audience with its instant power. Band members were jumping all over the place, and Matthew Fisher, the organist, had to dance as he had no organ part to play. Amidst the spasmodic flailing of Fisher, Grabham found it necessary to smash his guitar over Gary's head (a move Brooker clearly objected to), which made good viewing, but the song lost it's momentum as the song still had five more verses. After some revitalisation, Gary returned to the piano groggily (and I do mean, GROGGILY). "Here y'are, Matthew's gonna sing a song." Fisher looked completely bewildered, but nevertheless picked up his 3/4 acoustic and began strumming out Boredom. The ad-libs were not helped by Brooker's `medicinal intake'; he kept yelling at everyone to stop and then began giggling to himself, he left the piano at one point to give Chris Copping a cuddle, then he did an impromptu striptease on the piano's frame (it's lucky that the elderly ladies had already left!)
After a quick rap around the head with a baseball bat, Gary settled down, counted in and the band began Homburg, a soaring version encapsulating the mood at that moment. That is, a not completely understandable one. This song passed without incident, surprisingly. And then,
Gary: Here we go, this song is actually five songs stuck together like Yes. But unlike Yes, we stuck together and sounded good.
Jon Anderson (from balcony): F*** You!
Quite why Jon Anderson was in Brisbane was unknown to many, but a hush fell upon the crowd as Glimpses of Nirvana (some younger fans later wondered if it was a tribute to Kurt Cobain) opened up In Held 'Twas In I, their five part opus. It went down a treat. Hooray.
The band then almost immediately started Nothing But The Truth, a great rocker that was almost too much for some, someone even burned their Metallica shirt. Their final song was Pilgrim's Progress, with Matthew Fisher in fine voice, although Gary had to be convinced that HE wasn't supposed to be singing it.
The band left the stage and came back for 4 encores. AAAGHGHGH! The first encore was As Strong As Samson, with a bit of Good Captain Clack tagged on the end. Brooker sounded great, and Fisher's version of Copping's solo was very good also, although for some reason, some audience members asked if Mister Copping could please wear a hat as they were receiving a nasty glare ...
Then, Repent Walpurgis. This version went on so long, the Fisher 'passacaglia' was more like a complete Concerto. Fisher came to the microphone and said before he began, "I would like to say a few words, but I'm not going to."
"Please don't be, The Worm And The Tree" was the chant the audience had began, a reference to their preference for final encore. Whaling Stories took on a shape and form of its own, almost becoming alive. The crowd were completely stunned at this song's ferocity live. Even Major-General Peter Cosgrove threw his arms up and yelled "I surrender!"
And what do you think the last song was?
I'm not telling you! All I will say is, thank God it wasn't Wizard Man.
Love, peace, and nice things in small crockery,
Jimmy adds that, in case the above doesn't seem entirely respectful, readers should know that his own group already play three Procol numbers, and regard the band 'as the Indian does his elephant' …