Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum wrestle with sound problems

Chicago 13 April 1973 - Kinetic Playground

Pat Brennan writes to BtP:
Imagine my joy when Procol Harum was booked into the venerable Kinetic Playground.

Ahhh, yes, the Kinetic. A somewhat circular room with a huge gondola hanging off the ceiling, filled with projectors and strobe lights for the de rigeur psychedelic light show. A haunt of my youth and witness to some of the greatest rock shows in Chicago history.

An overstatement, you ask? How about Vanilla Fudge with Jethro Tull and Led Zeppelin as openers, with the latter two playing their first Chicago shows? The Who and Buddy Rich in a supposed battle of the drummers? The Original Jeff Beck Group? The Kinks opening for the Who on Halloween 1969? See what I mean.

Oh, how about Procol Harum for three nights in August of 1968, right after the infamous Democratic Convention? Ahhh, yes....

Anyway, things had changed. The Kinetic was closed for a while then reopened when I was in college. The scene was much more of a downer, as in quaaludes etc. The first show I attended upon the reopening was the incredible Mahavishnu Orchestra with the inane Aerosmith playing first. Soon thereafter, the dailies announced Procol Harum with Gentle Giant. Got my tix, asked a girl, rolled a joint and arrived early.

Gentle Giant was extraordinary, an absolute revelation. I recall The Advent of Panurge and some other numbers from Octopus, all played with unbounded musicianship. Thundering rock, lilting acoustics, incredible vocals, kind of like Renaissance England meets the Les Paul. Man, I thought, how are my heroes gonna match that?

Recall that at this point I'd seen PH perhaps ten times, but I was still jacked because Grand Hotel was still hot on the turntable. Well, perhaps you could ask Gary about this gig, but from the get-go, there were more technical problems than I had ever seen on a stage before. They were experimenting with a piano pickup for Gary's ax, and it did nothing but let about assorted electrical blips and beeps, with the occasional screech and groan thrown in. The PA system, which had sounded so good for Gentle Giant, became unintelligible - no, unbearable. Gary recognized the myriad problems and apologised any number of times, but the show had a pall over it that the band simply couldn't shake.

I do recall enjoying Grand Hotel and Bringing Home The Bacon, and Mick Grabham sounded quite good. Still, I would rank it far below any other PH show I had the pleasure of seeing. And, it was the last time I saw the inside of the Kinetic. Despite the tech problems, that alone makes it a show close to my heart.

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