Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at the Birchmere, 6 May 2003

Elizabeth Bryson reports

Elizabeth Bryson writes to BtP (May 2003)

The band came out and immediately set the tone for the evening with a powerful rendition of The VIP Room. As with most of the other songs that were performed from the new album, they seemed to have an added edge and/or groove to them that truly brought out the strength of the music and the words. Grand Hotel was another stand-out song during the first set. Geoff Whitehorn's solo was brilliant and with all of the time-signature changes and modulations in this song, the outstanding musicianship of the entire band really showed. They played together seamlessly and sounded very inspired. This again was quite apparent during Repent Walpurgis, the song that ended the first set.

As with the beginning of the first set, the second set started off with a very powerful version of Simple Sister. The next three songs were from the new album (Shadow Boxed, The Question, and Blink of An Eye). Again, these songs all came across very strongly, but the song that particularly stood out in the second set (from songs off The Well's on Fire) was Weisselklenzenacht. There is a grandeur about the song that comes across on the studio version, but the version performed live sounded even more majestic and beautiful. Right after that was a great version of Conquistador with some wonderful left hand piano fills from Gary. The second set then ended with A Salty Dog and Gary nailed all of the pitches with an effortlessness that seemed to harken back to his earlier days. After a few minutes the band came out for two encore numbers. The first was Piggy Pig Pig which drew a very loud and enthusiastic response from the crowd. Then they went into A Whiter Shade of Pale to finish the show.

Overall, the concert flowed beautifully. Gary was in very fine voice and came out with quite a few very humorous comments throughout the evening. There were some slight technical difficulties, and at times the mix was very bass-heavy, but generally the sound was very good and clear. The band played brilliantly in what was indeed a wonderful concert.

We did meet the band after the show. At the Birchmere, they have the big room where the performance is and outside of that area is another even larger room where the bar is and a dance-floor and tables for other events. After the show, all of the guys came out there and sat by a table, signed autographs and chatted with fans. There were about fifty or sixty people in line when Stewart and I went out there. We were actually the last people in line. It took about an hour for us to get up to the front. It was actually quite fun: at one point someone up in the front of the line must have said something about wanting to hear Whiskey Train and Mark Brzezicki went into an impromptu drumbeat on his glass and the table and Gary sang a couple of bars.

The whole band were extremely nice. Before talking to Gary, we talked a bit with Geoff Whitehorn who was really friendly and enjoyable to talk to. Despite being a bit of an introvert, I was really looking forward to meeting the group. I brought along a book called the Complete Angler to give to Gary (it's an updated version that's based on the original book that Gary had quoted from on the Lead Me to the Water album). It's a book we sell in the shop where I work and I thought he would enjoy it if he hadn't read it yet. It turns out he hadn't and he seemed really pleased with it. I mentioned sending Roland my versions of Without a Doubt and Toujours L'Amour and he asked me if I was going to be on the next Palers' Project album: I said I hope so!.

We talked for just a bit and then I gave him a tape with a song that I recently wrote about him called, Still I'll Dream. I think the song came out pretty well. We do have tickets for both of the shows at the Bottom Line on Friday, and hopefully we will get a chance to talk again

Thanks, Elizabeth

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