Procol Harum

the Pale

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The day we met Procol Harum

Marius Johannessen & Tore Waskaas

Since A Whiter Shade Of Pale recently was voted the best single ever in Norway, Gary Brooker probably felt that he had to include Kristiansand, Norway, on his tour schedule to say thanks. No matter what the reason was, we decided to take the three-hour drive down to Kristiansand on 26 May 2001.

After a long drive that featured both a second-hand record store and a speeding ticket (we could have done fine without that last bit), we arrived in Kristiansand at 4:15 pm.

As we walked from the car to the venue, Sørlandshallen, we saw an open garage door. We heard drum sounds coming out of the door, so we started running down to see. We sneaked in and saw that the engineers were testing the sound. We got in touch with a longhaired nice man, and he told us that Procol Harum was on the way down right now!

After waiting for about ten minutes, Procol Harum, with Gary Brooker in the front, walked down to the garage door where we stood. An engineer asked us if we could wait and talk to them after the soundcheck, which was more than OK with us, that way we could stay through the entire soundcheck.

Tore started immediately writing down the stuff that was being played. At first Matthew Fisher started playing the classic Green Onions on the organ, which sounded really groovy, by the way. TV Ceasar was played through twice. Beyond The Pale was a song they rehearsed quite a bit, and in between the guitarist Geoff Whitehorn played the opening riffs to Whisky Train and Shakin' All Over. But it was at the end of the soundcheck the real gems came; Shine On Brightly and A Salty Dog. It was really strange to be in a room with only 20 - 30 people (the band, engineers and us) and hear a unique version of some of our favourite songs. It was truly amazing. Just before they were done, Matthew, who was in a jolly mood, started playing When The Music's Over by The Doors.

After the soundcheck they walked towards the garage door to exit, and they were surprised when they saw that we were fans and not engineers. Gary Brooker, whom we had met three weeks earlier when the Rhythm Kings were in Oslo, signed photos and album covers with a big smile on his face. This was the fourth time we'd seen Gary and the third time we had met him, and now he was in the best mood we had ever seen him. As Tore showed him the Salty Dog album cover, he started bending and squeezing it and telling Geoff Whitehorn; "This is how a cover is supposed to be!" He was simply fantastic, and he signed each and every item we had brought.

While Marius talked with Brooker about the Rhythm Kings, Tore took the golden opportunity to talk to Matthew Fisher. He asked him if he was singing Wreck of the Hesperus. Matthew laughed out a "No," and said; "I would never sing that!". When Matthew was about to sign a "greatest hits" cover for Marius, he shook his head, laughed a bit, and said; "Another greatest hits album ...?" There have been an awful lot of compilation albums with Harum, so it is hardly possible to keep track of them all.

As they were saying goodbye, Tore reached out his hand to Matthew so he could shake the hand that played the magical Whiter Shade of Pale organ theme. Just before they left, Marius remembered to bring out the camera so we could keep the moment forever. A nice man took the photo of Marius, Gary, Matthew and Tore. The day was saved!

Sørlandshallen holds 8000 people at the most, but tonight we heard there were only 4 - 500. But that didn't matter, 'cause when Jens introduced Procol Harum and they came out and started Bringing Home the Bacon, we both knew we were in for a real treat. They were all in a really good mood, a great mood that found its way into the audience too.

After Bacon it was time for the classic Shine on Brightly and the fantastic Homburg. Tore's best moment at the concert was when the next song, Nothing But The Truth, started. What a song! We were surprised when Cerdes (Outside the Gates of ) from 1967 was played, and after that it was TV Ceasar, a song we heard for the third time that day.

Then came So far Behind, a song none of had heard before, Grand Hotel, Beyond the Pale, For Liquorice John, Typewriter Torment, Whaling Stories, Whisky Train, or Aquavit Train for the occasion, and finally Repent Walpurgis.

Brooker and the band joked between the songs and were just great. A guy in the audience probably wanted to test Gary and shouted, "How do you like Stavanger, Gary?" Gary looked in the crowd and said; "This isn't Stavanger, this is Kristiansand. You cant fool me."

The thing that didn't sound that good was Geoff Whitehorn. Procol Harum is a pompous rhythm & blues band, and Whitehorn is more of a heavy metal guitar-player. Please don't get us wrong, he is a fantastic guitar-player, but his style didn't really suit the band. Robin Trower was deeply missed. Whitehorn was by-the-way the main man in the band "If", and he played with Procol Harum in 1992, and with the Who in Hyde Park in 1996. This was confirmed when Tore wrote down on a paper piece; "The Who - Hyde Park - 1996?". Geoff saw the note, read it, and nodded his head.

Well, back to the show, it was time for the encores, or 'uncles' as John Lennon called them, and they were not a big surprise. We all knew there were two songs missing, and it was of course A Salty Dog and A Whiter Shade of Pale. Both were performed with excellence. When they left the stage after about two hours, Marius reached to the stage and grabbed one of the hand-written set-list sheets as a souvenir. On the sheet was Samson, which is As Strong As Samson, and Holding On listed as encores (along with A Salty Dog and A Whiter Shade of Pale.) Why they didn't play them remains unknown, but nevertheless, it was a great show.

Please come again Procol Harum, we will greet you with open arms once again.

Translated into English by Tore … thanks! See pictures here

Kristiansand Index Procol Harum concerts in 2001: index page
The setlist for this concert  

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