Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol in Poland

Kongresowa Hall, Warsaw, 9 February 1992

Translated into English by Joanna Gasior

As I went on a Saturday evening to Kongresowa Hall, I had a presentiment, that there was something amazing waiting for me. I don’t know now if it was a clear premonition or only expectation – anyway I went to a concert of Procol Harum full of faith, that I wouldn’t regret.

First and foremost I expected a lot of the hall itself – comfortable seats, good visibility, good acoustic. In such conditions almost each concert would fall out impressive. Besides I believed, that Gary Brooker would not disappoint his "old fans" and would not limit himself to playing his old records and would kindly remind his hits from before years.

I was on a gig of Procol Harum 16 years ago in Cracow (or in Nowa Huta) when a group recorded an in every respect nightmarish album Procol’s Ninth. The repertoire of the concert included altogether a few new songs, that were inserted here and there between masterpieces out of the old records.

It was also so this time. With about 10-minutes-delay (only 10 minutes) the lights begin to dim and on the stage appeared five men. Gary Brooker, that looked pretty old, told in Polish: "Dobry wieczor", sat down behind the piano ... and the first staves of Conquistador filled Kongresowa Hall. From now on began a real waking dream. I couldn’t believe my own ears and what’s more my own eyes. No disguising, no special effects, no fancy lights, inflated symbolics and superfluity of the form over the content. The magic of the evening was created by five artists, that were simply tightly knit with their instruments ... and music.

The next old-time hits: Bringin’ Home The Bacon, Shine On Brightly, Homburg (a little bit changed, overarranged) ... and the last hit The Truth Won’t Fade Away, that was played with such a verve and engagement, that it fell out a more better than on a record. And so on to the end: old-time, longed-for by the admirers of Procol Harum songs: (Pandora’s Box, The Devil Came From Kansas, Grand Hotel, A Salty Dog) and these new coming from the album The Prodigal Stranger (One More Time, Man With A Mission, King Of Hearts).

I have to say immediately, that I’m still not a fan of that record. I hear to it rather rarely and fragmentary and I don’t think that I would change my mind. Although, saying objectively, all its fragments played live fell out excessively well. Even One More Time developed after few minutes into marvellous guitar solo. Geoffrey Charles Whitehorn, that took Robin Trower’s place (guitar), simply surpassed him and not only with the artistry of the guitar playing but also with impressive solos.

When I heard to the Whaling Stories I had tears in my eyes. I didn’t expected, that one day I will experience such a great version of that song. It was besides the great finale – and – as it appeared – a prelude for encores, that brought more surprices than the whole concert.

First and foremost a new extended version of A Whiter Shade Of Pale. Probably Keith Reid added a new verse on the occasion of reactivation of the group, similarly Paul Simon during the famous concert with Art Garfunkel in Central Park continued the song with a new verse in The Boxer. Owing to it A Whiter Shade Of Pale become longer and more beautiful. Then we become a new version of a rock’n’roll standard Little Queenie – and suddenly ... I would not forecast it in my most beautiful dreams. Even if I was put to torture and forced to guess, which song will Procol Harum play in Poland, I would not assume, that after Little Queenie would come Repent Walpurgis.

Apart of A Whiter Shade Of Pale this is the most marvellous composition from the beginnings of the career of the band. The song is also saturated with Bach climate, full of reflection ... A version, that we heard, was suitably prolonged and seasoned with the greatest display of Whitehorn on a guitar. During this song we were all standing. I don’t think, that there was in Kongresowa Hall at least one man, that wouldn’t realize, that he takes part in a real mystery and that such moments happen once in a million years.

Gary Brooker grew old, went a little bit bald and turned grey. But he still can more than hundreds, thousands of young posers. He sings equally well as before, he can also get in touch with the public using only few words. He’s one of the artists, whose appearance itself is enough to give the concert ... a family atmosphere.

I thank. I thank Gary Brooker, that he came and played and also – most and foremost – that he reactivated Procol Harum. I experienced the most wonderful evening in my life and therefore I would also like to thank a firm, Rok Corporation, which was the organizator of the concert.

I oneself can only beat my breast and confess, that I wrote an article under the title An unsuccessful comeback in a moment when I was completely astouned. I’m ashamed, that I could despair. And this feeling of shame was one of two dissonances, which vexed me a bit this evening. A second dissonance was caused by gadding about of some photographers in a hall, which disturbed the caurse of the concert. Next time I would sat down in a first line of chairs and I would set my shoe to the buttock of such a man. My word !

Tomasz Beksinski

Thanks to Mirek Plodzik for submitting this; Mirek adds: as you know this was published in Tylko Rock magazine. Sadly sounds that Tomasz Beksinski is died (he made suicide on Christmas Eve 1999). He was very strange and interesting man, radio presenter, journalist, a man who hated TV and well talked about Procol. I can remember that he had his own radio broadcasting when he presented various the best rock music's poets. He forgot Keith name! I was nervous! I lost my belief in honesty of true World! After one week Beksinski was apologised that he did not mention about KR! He said: "sorry, sorry". But the most important thing was his voice, note ...

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