Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at Keitelejazz Festival, Finland

23 July 2009 • Christer Sundell

As I spent my Summer vacation in Finland I was not going to miss this concert, part of the Keitele Jazz happening. Before Procol Harum came on stage we had the pleasure to hearing Chris Farlowe and the Norman Beaker Band, and The Animals with Spencer Davis.

The announcer warned the crowd that Procol Harum had been in an accident, and from the instant Gary came on stage, we all saw that he was badly hurt. He walked on stiff as a brick and was not able to turn his body much. They started with Bringing Home the Bacon, and it was clear from the get-go that Gary was unable to sing much. Later he explained what had happened. The day before, he had, quote: “been climbing a pile of Finnish rocks [logs], when one Finnish rock [log] gave away, and I fell on to a nasty Finnish rock that hit me in a very bad spot, breaking a couple of my ribs”. Stage-side was Doctor Pirjo, I believe that was her name, looking after him and giving him some very strong medicine. There was a risk that the broken ribs could penetrate his lung.

Gary tried to sing, sweating and grimacing and apologising that he “did not quite make that one”. Sometimes he could not even talk. A fantastically brave effort, which was fully and totally appreciated by the crowd. Gary encouraged the audience to sing as much as it liked, and with a couple of the songs it worked. Although the tunes were very familiar to all, I am afraid most people just did not know the lyrics.

There was a ten-minute break after four songs, before which Gary mentioned that he had only missed one gig in his life, 1973 due to laryngitis. He also promised that he will make sure the band will be back in Äänekoski soon. Gary don’t forget now!!!

Photo by Timo Holopainen

After the intermission, and more medicine I guess, Gary seemed to be able to sing better until Cerdes. A Salty Dog was almost totally an instrumental, after which Gary announced that A Whiter Shade of Pale would be their last song for the night.

Obviously a disappointing gig for all but then again ten full points for effort. Geoff Whitehorn did a fabulous job keeping things together when Gary’s voice collapsed, and he also had some very nice long solos. As a matter of fact the whole band was tight and did not miss a beat. In a way it was rewarding to hear a heavily instrumental Procol Harum.

The concert took place in a large tent and I found the sound to be surprisingly good.

I hope Gary has a quick recovery and that we will see Procol Harum in the US soon.

Christer Sundell, Atlanta GA, USA.

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