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the Pale

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Procol Harum's 30th Birthday Party

Redhill Revisited The Grand Finale?


From postings on AOL byWRES2345, Tito and Leonard Boehm Date: 22 Jul 1997

After spending a week exploring sunny England with my wife and daughter, I have returned here to the States to report that Redhill highlighted the journey for me. It was hard-core Procoldom all the way. From the display partitions in the lobby showing AWSoP 45's released worldwide to the souvenir booth filled with 30 year commemorative paraphernalia (T-shirts and collared shirts, pins, CDs including AWSoP in stereo[?], a Shine On book historying the band, and apparently a rare Copping produced video), the atmosphere was pure Procol.

The international audience spanned three generations, mostly 40-50 year old men, and wore name-tags. Many people sported PH T-shirts, some of which I'd never seen before. The film portion started around 5:00 pm, about an hour after the reception. The theatre staff and tickets stated the event began at 5:00, so I missed the reception. (grrrrrr).

About 6:30 or so, the interesting film footage ended. BJ was shown often and I could sense his loss permeated the theatre. Before the concert started at 8:30, a large display of flowers was placed in front of the drum set to memorialize him. The buffet between the films and concert was weak, IMO, but that was not the reason we were there. However, the 30 year anniversary cake was definitely an inviting photo opportunity.

Now for the show. What I witnessed was a band quite aware of their audience The selection of songs suggested that. A Christmas Camel [sic] featured MF at his best. GB spoke often between songs, a sense of 'Here we are, one big family; Let's enjoy the evening'. The band members smiled frequently...They were obviously having fun too, not taking themselves too seriously (except MF, who seemed businesslike, I guess that's his persona). When the first half concluded with AWSoP, I was intrigued.

BTW, if I may divert for a moment, and for those interested in what these guys looked like, here goes: Chris Copping basically sported a shaved head, some hair on the sides. Alan Cartwright looked to me like a stocky John Lithgow. Mick Grabham had longish grey hair parted in the middle, and Pete Solley still carried a headful of thick curly hair no grey in sight. GB looks very distinguished and successful, like a plantation owner or something.

The second set included most of their more often played concert songs except the final number, none other than IHTII. The audience participated accordingly with much more vities began with a reception, during which Gary and wife Franky mingled with the revellers, enthusiastically signing autographs and posing for dozens of photos (for this walkabout Gary wore a T-shirt given to him by Bert and Corina Soroco, who are Homburg Society members from Long Island, New York. The shirt features a collage of hand-drawn faces of Procol Harum members over the years.)

Following the reception, the crowd was ushered into the theater's auditorium, the Pilgrims (Progress) Hall, for a showing of the Beat Workshop video from 1971, featuring Gary, BJ Wilson, Chris Copping, Alan Cartwright and Dave Ball. Numbers on the video include, Shine On Brightly, Pilgrims Progress, Power Failure and Simple Sister. The video was followed by the premiere of the excellent Henry Scott Irvine documentary, It Was 30 Years Ago Today. The 51-minute work traces the roots of AWSoP and features interviews with Gary, Matthew Fisher and Keith Reid. The film also includes great footage of early Procol. Henry said the video, which is 'a work in progress,' will be shown on the British television later this year. He did not know if there are any immediate prospects of the video being shown on American television.

Shortly thereafter, came the main event, what the crowd had waited for all night. The show reunited Procol Harum members who have not played together on stage for over a decade. What follows are the players and songs (as best as I can remember).

Who did what:
Gary Brooker piano and vocals
Mick 'the Lad' Grabham electric guitar, backing vocals
Graham Broad drums
The three shared the stage with:
Matthew Fisher Hammond Organ, acoustic guitar, vocals
Chris Copping Hammond Organ, bass
Pete Solley synth, electric fiddle, piano (on Dream In Every Home, during which Gary stood at the center stage microphone and sang)
Alan Cartwright bass
Matt Pegg electric bass and acoustic bass
Dave Bronze bass
Keith Reid was very much missed. He was unable to attend the show because he has 'builders' working in his home in New York City. (Keith is single-handedly boosting the construction industry. During Procol's last U.S. tour, he had 'builders' in his home in London and was unable to attend.) However, Gary read a telegram from Keith, in which he sent his regrets and included the cryptic rhyme:

'When you look back
there's blood on those tracks
and if you try to read between the lines
who knows what you may find.'

The songs:
Broken Barricades
Kaleidoscope
The Idol
Robert's Box
Dream in Every Home
The Devil Came From Kansas
A Rum Tale
Thin End of the Wedge
Piggy Pig Pig
This Old Dog (with Solley on electric fiddle)
A Whiter Shade of Pale (all four verses)
(Somewhere in the set, an irreverent Procoler requested Robe of Silk, and Gary complied by playing solo the first couple of bars of the song.)
Intermission
Homburg
Bringing Home the Bacon
Cerdes
Grand Hotel
Shine on Brightly
Conquistador Salty Dog (including the now-traditional dedication to those 'looking down from above' BJ Wilson)
In Held 'Twas In I
AWSoP (the very short version)

According to Gary, this was only the third time In Held has been played live in its entirety. There was a great cheer of delight and anticipation from the audience as the song opened with the chant (Om). The audience then participated in the song by 'clapping furiously' at the end of Tea Time at the Circus. The applause ran a little bit long and Gary had to gesture to the audience to fade out after the great thunderclap (or 'atomic bomb explosion' as Gary put it). Then surprise! Matthew Fisher took center stage and, while strumming on acoustic guitar, sang Autumn of My Madness (as God intended). The conclusion of 'Grand Finale' brought the audience to its feet for a long standing ovation 'the crowd called out for more.' They got it, when the band returned and encored with a truncated chorus of AWSoP, with which Gary asked the crowd to sing along.

Unfortunately, there was no opportunity for a second encore, because it was about11:30 p.m. and the performance, which started about 8:30 p.m., was violating Redhill's curfew restrictions.

However, while this may have been the end of the show, it was not the end of the evening. The band minus Mick, Matt Pegg and Dave, joined the audience in the Harlequin's reception hall a little later for more opportunities for autographs and photos. Matthew Fisher's 'mum' was also there telling tales of a young Matt, who borrowed money from his grandmother to buy his first organ.

Later, the boys, minus Matthew Fisher, dropped in for a drink and a chat at the nearby Lakers Toby Hotel (not the Grand Hotel, but a grand place to stay), where many Procolers gathered. No word from Gary on when Procol may next visit the United States, but I did tell him that we are all anxious to see the band again on this side of the puddle.

Earlier, the organizers of the event offered the crowd ample opportunities to buy a 'souvenir of London,' by offering a good selection of Procol memorabilia, including polo shirts, caps and pins all decorated with the words, '30 A Whiter Shade of Pale 1967-1997.' Other items available were various CDs, including the Gary Brooker ensemble's Within Our House, a Mick Grabham solo work, featuring bonus cuts with BJ Wilson, and various Procol album reissues. Henry's documentary was available on videotape, as was a bound compilation of the first editions of Henry's Shine On news letter, which was ideal for autograph purposes.

And now, in closing let me say that every Procoler owes an immeasurable debt of gratitude to Shine On's Diane Rolph and John Grayson, whose devotion and dedication (not to mention sleepless nights) made this unforgettable event possible. Thanks to their hard work, an important milestone in the history of pop music did not pass without notice. It is up to every Procoler to assure that this is not the 'final thrust.'

Photo by Leonard Boehm
 

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