Procol Harum

the Pale

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Strange Lights over Manchester

Richard Solly reports for BtP

Procol Harum with the Hallé Orchestra and Choir; Conductor, Nicholas Dodd
Bridgewater Hall, Manchester Sunday 17 June 2001

I'd like to thank everyone associated with giving this fabulous event wings. It was also great to meet so many nice people. At last. 'Tis a pity Anne and myself couldn't make the Palers' Convention particularly as Ramblin' Ron got a mention. I still don't understand just what he's trying to say. Must be these bar-bells on my eye lids.

Once we'd got the brooms out of the room at the Jury's Inn it was fine. We took it in turns to sleep as neither of us could lie down at the same time. Seriously folks the Hotel was a great place to stay. With an dazzling sense of direction it took no time at all finding the Hall. Amazing really. It was going to make a great change not having to charge off after a concert to catch the last train.

The crowd were a happy mixture of people. 'Ooh that's a 1967 T-shirt?'. . 'Yes' I said 'I've had a face-lift'. . 'I bet that's not all'. . . Charming eh!! I go to work to be insulted!!! Let's go to souvenir counter. . get some sense there. They'd run out of large T-shirts so I opted for a medium. 'It's a border line case but you should just get in to it,' chortled John Grayson as my 14 quid quickly disappeared. Come on Anne let's go in before there's a punch-up.

The Hall itself was a superb setting and any reservation I had about Procol filling the place were dispelled. The stalls were packed apart from a few seats behind the mixing desk.

I have to say that this was the best fusion of Procol and Orchestra I'd ever seen. It was a good move having the band at the front. At the Barbican they were at the back and the sound although good was not as crystal clear as Manchester.

The song were similar to those at the Barbican but played with more sensitivity and colour. Strangers in Space it was generally accepted was magnificent. Getting Butterfly Boys played was marvellous. A real fave of mine. Seeing the setlists of the recent tour I'd given up hope of hearing Typewriter Torment and So Far Behind but I was half expecting TV Ceasar with Rule Britannia tacked on. It didn't arrive ... never mind.

There were some real gems in the first half. It made me laugh when Nicholas Dodd had to remind Gary that Grand Hotel was to be played before Holding On. A word about Nicholas Dodd: he struck me as a cross between Pavarotti and Rolf the Dog from the Muppets. Talk about an octopus in a bath-tub. he was jumping about and having a great time. Squiddly Doddly. He got the orchestra on their feet at every opportunity. It wasn't until afterwards we realised that there weren't enough chairs and the big band had to move around a bit. I don't entirely believe this.

Matthew Fisher seemed touched that Repent Walpurgis got such a rousing ovation. This closed the first half. Great stuff. I bumped into Charlie Allison and we traded notes and stole quotes before Part 2.

The Procol song that never was, Ghost Train cranked in to life. The band were really cooking now. The audience were driving the band on. A solemn moment came when BJ Wilson and now that charming Procol lover Douglas Adams were remembered prior to an awesome Salty Dog.

Into The Flood was another barnstormer and it was nice hearing a three verse Whiter Shade of Pale with more band this time played. That's it Good Night!!

The audience reaction brought a tear to the eye. For all the hard work Gary Brooker has put in to this band tonight must have seemed to him as making it all worth while. Grand Finale and I'll Be Satisfied again brought everyone to their feet.

What a show. Gary Brooker's singing was great as were the whole band. The orchestra and choir did a superb job bringing a richness to this unique entertainment.

We all wandered off to the Jury's where we chatted with Roland, Charlie, Tony (from Chicago) and Hermann amongst others. There was a report in the papers the following day that strange lights had been seen over Manchester that night. The police said it was probably the use of new lights at the airport but I have my doubts. It was a Glimpse of Nirvana shining brightly.

Richard (yes the T-shirt does fit) Solly

Procol Harum concert in Manchester: index page

European Tour 2001: index page

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