Procol Harum

the Pale 

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Procol Harum at Islington, December 2003

Unsteady Freddie sends words and pictures (1)

Well, my fellow Procol Harum friends, fans, followers, freaks and the like ... it's high-time I put fingers to keyboard and said something about the Procol Harum show and Indian dinner that followed in Islington, London, on 12 December 2003.

To commence, I have to thank my Higher Power (HP = PH = Procol Harum!) for getting me there without incident, and home to America in the same fashion. Special acknowledgments also go out to so many people that I know: as I start naming names some of those humans will be left out inadvertently. Let's tip our Homburgs especially to Roland and Jens, and good-ol' Allen 'One-Eye' Edelist for their on-going beyond-the-pale over-the-top loving-giving support for Procol Harum incredible, impossible-to-calculate efforts the life-line for this wondrous band, if you will. And a nod to Diane Rolph (with assistance from Ms Franky Brooker) for their personal support of Gary.

I went to see Procol Harum at Islington with someone who has become a dear friend of mine, Ms Sue Reid yes, Keith Reid's not-so-simple sister, who, by the way, never had the whooping cough, I am told. We met in Manchester a few years back. I also sat with my pal Terry Kelly good ol' Terry used to be the proprietor for The Globe in the London Bridge neighborhood of London (aka SE 1); if you've seen Bridget Jones's Diary then you've seen 'The Globe': down the Thames from Tate Modern, around the back of Southwark Cathedral. Terry's moved on to a new endeavor in that same neighborhood called, I believe, 'The Mudlark'. Stop in and ask for the old boy. Sue sat on my left, Terry to my right. Two seats to the right of Terry was none other than Matthew Fisher's Mom (or should I say Mum?). What a sweetheart!

Got to the venue as the band's soundcheck was under way: Gary was dressed quite sharp in a suit; the others were far more casual. After a few numbers, Geoff Whitehorn calls out to me, 'Unsteady Freddie, how's your Mom?' Jesus, I was floored. Hey listen, I wasn't sure Geoff remembered me, well, by name that is. I know (I have been told this) I am 'unforgettable'. We formally met at the Bottom Line in May of this year when I attended all three shows there. Those in the know are keenly aware I took my Mom (my Mum, or 'creator' as Gary called her) to the 11 May show for Mother's Day she met the band, took photos (which were posted on the website). I called back, 'She's cool and sends her love'. Gotta tell ya, it caused more than a mere tear to trickle down my face. I was already bawling from some of the material being played at the soundcheck. Shortly thereafter, The Commander called out, 'Freddie S, what are you doing here? What have you to say for yourself? Hurry, you only have a few seconds.' I answered, 'I love you guys!', and the sobs, well, they continued to flow. But, my friends, my tears were tears of joy to quote Sue's brother!

"Unsteady Freddie, international jetsetter and world-wide phenomenon, is greeted by his fans upon
his arrival in London," writes our correspondent, Unsteady Freddie

Terry Kelly with Unsteady Freddie (right)

Liz and Diane ... Paramounts fans, Procol fans ...

Terry Kelly with Unsteady Freddie (left)

Geoff Whitehorn in thoughtful soundcheck mode

Geoff still looking a bit pensive

The Commander soundchecks in his Buckingham Palace threads; a clockwork mouse dances along,
and Johnny watches in case adjustments are required.

We almost get a glimpse inside the faux piano at this point. Lavish neo-Gothickry in the background

Derek stands by, as Matthew Fisher soundchecks; galleon in full sail on the Leslie. Nice opportunity
to see how the VK7's wooden endpieces purport to mimic the august profile of the B3 case.

Matt Pegg in ornamental mask ... sadly not worn by him during the concert itself

Jens, One-Eye, Roland and Jutta : quite keen Procol Harum enthusiasts

The BtP team threatens Freddie with a Fresh Fruit mailing

We all sat in the third row for the soundcheck, and stayed there for the show. I won't go through the song set that's been covered by others. But needless to say the whole experience was so unbelievably spiritual very hard to describe in words. Hey, who would have thought Procol Harum would still be together as a musical unit in 2003? How lucky are we to have these masterful musicians in our lives? And the fact they are still producing new music, and not simply resting on their laurels and the wonderful catalogue of material they already have given us? Just a blessing, a gift ...

So picture this, a Jewish guy (me) from New York City, on his Sabbath, to loosely paraphrase Elvis Presley, 'you saw me crying in the chapel' about as close to God as I can get. Holy Shit the boys rocked the house (of worship)!

The individual musicianship of each band member was, well to put it mildly, outstanding. Geoff's playing was sweet, tasteful, passionate and intense all at once. Mark's steady (definitely not 'unsteady') backbeat combined with Matt's bass rhythms were the evening's pulse for sure. Matthew playing gothic Hammond in a Church does it get better than that? Unreal, I mean, the perfect setting, no? And Gary was in fine voice gutsy, bluesy, and whimsical. And I am so personally proud of the MBE bestowed upon him. About time, eh? Gerry Marsden of Gerry and The Pacemakers' fame also received one. I am a big fan of that band oddly enough, as it happens, I had with me a red baseball cap that reads 'Mersey Ferries' I bought that in 2002 when I actually rode the Ferry 'cross the Mersey'. It all comes together (if you let it!).

Procol Harum concerts in 2003: index page

Part Two of this feature

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