Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at Unna, Germany

Frank Mattheus, 15 November 2003

I had the great pleasure to attend two concerts of the world's best rock band during their ongoing German tour. Earlier this year I saw them in Hamburg and enjoyed the show very much, but this time they were overwhelming. I have never heard them playing before with such a pressure, accuracy and pure energy. One downer there was: the setlist was very short; they only played fifteen songs (without counting the opening bars of the Underture), and the crowd could leave the venue just in time for a late dinner after ninety minutes of music. Anyway, nobody could complain, because these ninety minutes were really fantastic. And maybe Gary and the band just wanted to prevent us from damage, because the tension was hard to withstand.

Here (right) is the setlist of Unna, which was taped to the floor but did not seem to be the canon for the evening.

They played the first eight songs according to the list, but then followed 9) Homburg, 10) VIP Room 11) The Signature, 12) Shadow Boxed, 13) A Salty Dog and 14) Conquistador; as an encore we heard Good Captain Clack and A Whiter Shade of Pale.

The crowd, about 700 people in a very small hall, was glowing and ardent from the first note the band played, but became even more enthusiastic when they listened to Matthew's composition The Question. The performance of this blues was perfect; first there was an interplay between Gary and Maf, but then Geoff joined in and controlled the scene; he played some phrases on the guitar, which Matthew echoed on the organ. A small boy of about 14, like me standing directly at the stage, interacted with Matt the Hat, speeding him up by showing him his thumb up (after the show Mark gave him his drum stick as a gift, and the boy was really clasped); Matt played a wonderful bass line, and Mark showed a powerful drumming. Although Geoff had three guitars standing around, he played a green one all the time. Insiders might know what this means.

The next two songs were the highlights of the evening, Simple Sister, to my mind one of the best rock compositions ever, and The Idol had been performed in the best of taste, and the audience was plainly knocked over.

Everybody then waited for AWSoP, and when Matthew started to play his Opus No 2, as Gary introduced it, the crowd yelled and clapped - and stopped doing so immediately, when people noticed that it was not the song they thought it was: an indication that a lot of them are not yet familiar with the new stuff.

The last song of the set was Conquistador, and the band played it in the up-tempo version, with a very driving beat, leaving the audience breathless. The band returned for its encore, performing a relaxed Good Captain Clack and, of course, A Whiter Shade of Pale with, if I have counted right, two verses.

It was a great evening with a lot of friendly fans in a good mood, and most of them were like me just amazed how this band can surprise and satisfy his audience ever again.

Procol Harum concerts in 2003: index page

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