Procol Harum

the Pale

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GB and co at the Albert Hall

Andrew Deas reports

Gary Brooker played a concert at the Royal Albert Hall on Monday 15 March 2004, in which Geoff Whitehorn, Frank Mead, Eric Clapton, Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, The Zombies (Colin Blunstone & Rod Argent), Paul Carrack, Geno Washington, Jools Holland, Sam Brown, Peter Green, and Bob Geldof, and Roger Chapman also took part.

It was a good line up, but the sound, in the gods at any rate, wasn't too good; the atmosphere wasn't as good as at the comparable Guildford's Last Fling – probably not helped by the size of the venue. Most guests played three or four numbers, and then re-appeared at the end for the final song, Land of 1000 Dances, with Gary on lead vocal – except for 'EC' who didn't (as far as I could see) re-appear. Gary's three songs were: Stagger Lee, Lead Me to the Water, and A Whiter Shade of Pale.

A strange concert in that few of the artists played songs they were famous for, particularly Roger Chapman, EC, and Geno Washington. Peter Green managed to bluff his way through Black Magic Woman, but with no confidence nor, it would seem, enjoyment. The best bits, I think, were The Zombies, who included Time of the Season, and She's Not There, and Gary, whose short set was nicely balanced: one cover song, one solo song, and one Procol song. [Read GB's own account of the gig here]

An interesting evening, which could have been better (where was Alvin Stardust?! – only joking!).

Clapton joined by old friends for charity concert (report from The Irish Examiner)

Eric Clapton has played on stage with former Rolling Stone Bill Wyman for the first time ever.

The two rock giants, who have only ever recorded together before, were joined by Jools Holland, Bob Geldof and a roll-call of 60s and 70s stars in a charity concert at London’s Royal Albert Hall last night.

Musicians including former Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green, Rod Argent and Colin Blunstone of the Zombies, Gary Brooker of Procol Harum and Geno Washington played their hits in a variety of combinations – mostly backed by Wyman’s band, the Rhythm Kings, with Georgie Fame on organ.

Clapton, who recently announced he was selling most of his guitars for charity, was playing on a UK stage for the first time in three years. [sic! … see his gigs with Gary 2004, 2003 and 2002]

Proceeds from the 'One Generation 4 Another' concert – at least £125,000– will go to Lord’s Taverners, which gives children, especially those with special needs, "a sporting chance". The charity donates 40 minibuses to schools and colleges each year to transport pupils to sporting events, as well as wheelchairs, ponies and swimming equipment. The Taverners was founded 54 years ago by cricket-loving entertainers but this was its first major rock concert. Taverners president Richard Stilgoe said: "This new rock concert will, I hope, be the first of many.

"Some Lord’s Taverners may be too old for sex and need medication rather than drugs, but we love rock and roll and are thrilled that such a fantastic constellation of stars are decorating our first Albert Hall spectacular."

Eric Clapton and others, Royal Albert Hall, London

Keith Shadwick in The Independent, 18 March 2004

Charity musical events often result in the music suffering because of the demands of showbiz. After all, we're supposed to suspend all normal modes of behaviour and enter gladly into the pact of helping the charity in question. We all play our part, whether it's by providing entertainment, applause, money or publicity to the nominated cause.

This particular Albert Hall spectacular was marshalled by (and in aid of) The Lord's Taverners' Charitable Works and featured a host of rock'n'rollers at various stages of the ageing process, but the presence of Eric Clapton's name at the top of the bill at least gave attendees hope that the music served up for the occasion would have integrity. While Jools Holland is equally adept at boogie piano and doing the showbiz glad hand, other older stagers such as Bill Wyman, Peter Green, Rod Argent, Colin Blunstone and Roger Chapman (later additions to the bill included Bob Geldof and Gary Brooker) suggested that the hope would bear fruit.

First on stage were Bill Wyman's Rhythm Kings, featuring Georgie Fame. Their good-natured take on R&B was marred only by the Albert Hall's renowned ability to dissipate a tight groove in its upper architecture. A four-song set by Paul Carrack came and went with nothing remarkable happening, before Roger Chapman appeared, to inject a little spirit into the proceedings. Sticking mostly to early Sixties R&B, Chapman clearly enjoyed himself and got everyone else rocking. Last up before the break were The Zombies. Featuring Colin Blunstone and Rod Argent, the group fired off three numbers, climaxing in "She's Not There", extended on stage to include a screeching guitar solo.

After the break, the entertaining acoustic set by Geno Washington overran. The following acoustic set by Jools Holland and Sam Brown was mercifully short. An unanswered question hung over the two pieces Peter Green completed with the Rhythm Kings before wandering off stage; Eric Clapton looked on silently from the wings. He was, in fact, next on stage and delivered three impeccably judged and executed blues numbers, his multicoloured Stratocaster brimming with fire and fluency. Clapton proved to be at the top of his game and was the thrill of the night.

No such event is complete without a surprise guest. Ours was Geldof. Sir Bob came on to wild cheering and ran through two quick numbers with Wyman's group, "Route 66" taking us back to Rolling Stones territory. Last act before the all-in finale was Gary Brooker, who finished up with a sepulchral Whiter Shade of Pale.

The audience – an odd mixture of fans, charity grandees and ordinary folk – swept up by the energy on stage, were now well beyond merely rattling the jewellery. The stomping and cheering showed that they had real enthusiasm for the cause. Proof positive, then, that a good cause can aid in the process of a good time being had by all, including the beneficiaries. It was an event demanding charitable behaviour from all present, including the critics.

More Brooker non-Procol information here

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