Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at San Diego, 29 July 2003

Mostly from the camera of Nancy Queen

Kurt Harding writes to BtP (Septenber 2003):

Kurt Harding with his friend Mike, and the San Diego setlist

It had been thirty years since I last saw Procol Harum perform, mismatched with a Spirit spinoff called Jo Jo Gunne at some small venue in the Phoenix area. With great anticipation, I drove in from Texas to San Diego and joined some high school friends at 4th and B to hear what we hoped would be a great show. We were not disappointed. Not only was it a great show, it was a quasi-religious experience!

We were first in the door and got seats front and center. Although the crowd was slow to trickle in, the atmosphere fairly bristled with electric excitement as fans awaited the first notes. A roar went up as the band came on stage and broke into Bringing Home The Bacon.

I won't give a blow-by-blow, because Al has already done a good job of that. But I will tell you that the band was in top form. Songs from the new album were as lustily cheered as those from back in the day. Especially stirring from The Well's On Fire were inspired takes of the very topical Wall Street Blues, The VIP Room, Shadow Boxed, The Question, and the band's new classic, Weisselklenzenacht. Matthew Fisher brought the crowd to its feet with his play on the latter.

The band also played a good mix of works from their earlier albums, the highlights of which were Pandora's Box, a rousing Piggy Pig Pig, Homburg, the ever-pleasing Grand Hotel, and the almost obligatory A Salty Dog.

Kurt during the ovations. Those chairs are empty because their former occupants have all rushed up to the very front of the stage

The crowd was brought to frenzied ecstasy during the encore with classic performances of AWSoP and Repent Walpurgis. Almost everyone was on their feet and crowding the stage in rapturous joy at that point. That the concert had to end was its only disappointment.

Overall, the show was superb with only a few forgotten lyrics (where was "streets awash with blood and pus" in Piggy Pig Pig?) and a few missed notes. Gary's voice and piano were as strong and moving as ever and the songs selected generally played to the individual players' strengths. Matthew Fisher's return was both a personal triumph and a collective one for the band. Geoff Whitehorn is not Robin Trower, nor is Mark Brzezicki BJ Wilson ... but we don't want them to be. They make a fine fit for the current direction of Procol Harum as the continued strong muse of the Brooker/Reid team leads it into the 21st century.

Thanks, Kurt

Procol Harum concerts in 2003: index page


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