'Makes quite a change for a Friday night at the Rainbow,' said the guy behind me surreptitiously halfway through Procol Harum's appearance last week.
And so it did. This was Procol's first British concert for a long time certainly since the enormous success of their live album, and their first attempt to capture that evening in Edmonton when the album was laid down. Friday night saw the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the pro Arte Singers, Royal Shakespeare man Guy Woolfenden conducting and Gary Brooker rising to the occasion in an evening suit [sic] and risquι carnation tucked into his lapel.
With Alan Cartwright, Chris Copping, BJ Wilson and new man Mick Grabham on guitar, Brooker swept through the band's set most of it based firmly round [sic] the live album. From Whaling Stories, Fires Which Burn Brightly, and into Simple Sister from Broken Barricades the band was taking its time settling in with the orchestra.
It picked up on Sister good tight sound from the band based around [sic] Wilson's drumming Two new songs were introduced at this point Grand Hotel (lovely piece of nostalgic tongue-in-cheek) and Toujours l'Amour both off the unreleased new Harum album.
But it was with Salty Dog the audience, I felt, really started to warm up with its emotional peaks lifting them up and setting them back like waves. Conquistador and In Held 'Twas in I (with Keith Reid coming in for his poetry bit) held them to a formidable climax. It wasn't surprising that by the end the audience, as one, were on their feet.
The band came back for their encore a fitting break-up of solemnity with a busking guitar and banjo number of shameful innuendo Souvenir of London, and then finished off with Repent Walpurgis.
The audience could have taken more much more proving it by a standing ovation that lasted five minutes.
Overall it was a triumph for Procol a band who have not tasted that kind of triumph in Britain for a long time.
More Rainbow stuff