Procol Harum

the Pale 

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A fan's Procol tour diary: North America

6 May 2003 : Al 'One-Eye' Edelist at the Birchmere

In order to leave Boston, the computer at US Airways randomly selected me for a security check. Off came the shoes and a search of my handheld bag ...

I arrived at the club in Alexandria at about 4:30. The band was delayed to the sound check. I was told later that the hired drivers picking them up at the airport were nowhere in sight. Jules has arrived with the truck to set up the drums, Hammond B3, Roland VK-7, and Gary's Roland RD-600. It's now 6:00 and Graham is using a CD copy of The Well's on Fire to get some initial sound settings. I believe the crowd is being delayed from entry.

The band has arrived. Getting monitors and lights right..

A band VIP Room, and Fellow Travellers to check the VK-7 and B3. Checking the hi-hat and all of the drums for miking and volume ... that ends a very shortened sound check.

Show starts around 745.

The sound is good, but not warm and full. I am back by the soundboard, and I don't care for the room's acoustics. Full of people, the room doesn't feel that warm to me.

Nice response to The VIP Room.

Gary talks a little about Virginia, 'the land of smokes'. This is a polite crowd, knowledgeable., and it is a full room.

Solid playing and Gary's voice is strong. Gary bashes Elton John a bit.

Great response for Homburg.

Maf becomes upset about something - don't know what - and walks over halfway across the stage to tell John something and quickly returns to the Hammond.

Crowd really enjoys Wall Street Blues.

Fellow Travellers, Matt plays a beautifully melodic and strong bass.

Just prior to Fellow Travellers, somebody hands Gary a paper, and he reads - jokingly, of course - "Dear Gary, would like to join the Strawbs?"

Repent Walpurgis supplants As Strong As Samson as the closing number of the opening set, and receives standing ovation with yells from the crowd of "Matthew."

Simple Sister receives a tremendous ovation as the second set starts.

Gary comments that the last time he had played there was with Bill Wyman.

Shine On Brightly and An Old English Dream receive very nice responses. And, of course, Weisselklenzenacht receives continued nightly response.

Maf is amazing on Conquistador and A Salty Dog as the Hammond is loud, full and clear.

Piggy Pig Pig moves into the encore spot this evening with a tremendous lead from Geoff.

Matt and Mark trade a momentary smile of joy at one of the last drum fills during A Whiter Shade of Pale, and again do so when I comment about it to them after the show.

Overall, the crowd has been transfixed.

I have been back by the sound and lighting boards this evening, where again I noticed a few people dancing in front of their seats to Conquistador.

After the concert, a big line forms out in the vast lobby of The Birchmere for an autograph signing session. Fans arrive with incredible amounts of Procol memorabilia as some wait patiently for over an hour as the full band jokes and has fun.

Tony Sadowski related a story of a fan arriving at the front of the line and shouting "Whisky Train". Mark starts playing drums with pencils, Matt mimes playing bass and sings the bass line, Geoff mime-sings the lead, and Gary sings a verse.

Also of note is a gentleman who worked at a club where they played in 1972 to whom Gary offered a Guinness in the bar, saying "Try one of ours"! With a little coaxing, he did. 31 years on, this gentleman sent a note with a Guinness to the stage, and Gary remembered that moment!

Chris introduces me to Richard Fuller from The Voice Of America, a fan who has played Procol Harum over the airwaves for the past 36 years. He noted that he has communicated with Roland and Jens.

As the evening wore to a conclusion and everyone said their goodbyes, I wish to comment that it a distinct pleasure to meet Mary Froning, our late Paler Peter Froning's older sister. Peter passed away six months ago. He had attended the Paler Parties in Guildford and Kristiansand just prior to his sojourn to China to teach. We all remember his daily diaries, and he introduced a young group of students to Procol Harum. He will be remembered fondly by all of us whom he touched with his wit and kindness.

As Mary said, too, "We are all Fellow Travellers."

--oe, the monocular one

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