Procol Harum

Beyond the Pale

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Some particular highlights

Bill Hargreaves reports for BtP

I think the last (and only) time I saw Procol Harum was in 1972 or '73 at the late lamented Free Trade Hall in Manchester. So, I couldn't believe my luck when I saw they were to play a mere four miles from my home, at the magnificent Bridgewater Hall in Manchester. When I learned that Manchester was to be the only UK gig AND that it would be with full orchestra and choir, I knew it was fate! It HAD to be fate!

I can't add much to Charlie Allison's review which nicely sums up the proceedings, but there were some particular highlights for me.

Simple Sister: One of my all-time favourites and it just wouldn't have been the same without the orchestral accompaniment which was superb, really driving the song along. Man with a Mission – My favourite track from The Prodigal Stranger. A real rocker on the album AND live. Ghost Train – I KNEW I knew this song when I heard it but couldn't remember where from. It's been bugging me since Sunday night, but today I realised it's on Gary's Echoes in the Night album. Pandora's Box – I missed the vibes at the beginning, but was pleased they were included later. Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) – my wife could never take this song seriously on Grand Hotel. It was Christianne Legrand's 'La, La, La' introduction that did it, and I wondered if it would be in the set. The choral introduction proved to be more subtle than the original, I think, and my wife admitted she'd enjoyed it. A Salty Dog – after a superb rendition, Gary said something like he didn't really enjoy it, but it's 'always there.' Yes, it IS always there, and quite rightly so. For me it rates among Procol's finest songs ever. A Whiter Shade of Pale (three verses) – I noticed there was something extra in the middle. I didn't know there WERE extra verses until Sunday. I should have spent more time visiting the website.

Overall, a night to be remembered and cherished.

What impressed me most is that Gary's voice is as good now as it's ever been. I appreciate this all the more because I went to a Jethro Tull gig last year and while they're as good musically as in the early days, Ian Anderson just can't hit all the notes he used to.

Geoff Whitehorn – what a character! Obviously enjoying every minute of the performance, not overly flashy but superbly competent.

Mark Brzezicki – even Gary seemed to stumble slightly over the pronunciation of his name (the 'Brzezicki' bit, not the 'Mark' bit). It's no easy task to try to fill the shoes of BJ Wilson, but Mark does an excellent job. And good grief, he's younger than me as well.

Matthew Pegg – is he old enough to be out on his own? Or is it just that the rest of the band are a LITTLE bit older and make him appear even more youthful? Still, he certainly does the job, even if, as Gary said, 'He's the one who keeps the rest of the band up late at night.'

Matthew Fisher – driving it all along with that superb Hammond sound. A great pleasure for me to see him and Leslie perform again after all this time.

'And when the show is over' – the audience just didn't want to leave. Many were obviously hoping for a second encore, and it wasn't the house lights coming on that told them this was not to be, nor the background music being played over the PA, it was only when the orchestra finally started to leave that we got the message that the show really WAS over.

Procol Harum concert in Manchester: index page

European Tour 2001: index page

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