Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum in Poland, December 2001

Mirek Plodzik on two Polish websites

'The champagne was served!' (title used at the ONET website)
'Procol Harum - new energy!' (title used at the 'Warszawaonline' website)

First time they performed in Sala Kongresowa a quarter of a century ago in 1976. Later on at the beginning of the nineties they promoted a new record, The Prodigal Stranger, with changed line-up; they come back again with new energy on Friday 14 December 2001. Legendary band Procol Harum played a concert which will remain in the spectator’s memory for a long time.

The show began a bit late (the band came directly from Denmark) and there was a traffic jam in Warsaw. Gary Brooker (singer and pianist, with a five o’clock shadow this time), Matthew Fisher (organist from the first line-up), Geoff Whitehorn (guitarist), Matt Pegg (bass guitar) and Mark Brzezicki (percussion) appeared at 20.53 at the stage. It is worth mentioning that the average age – only 47 – is low for such a legendary rock band.

From the first song, Bringing Home The Bacon, it was obvious that the band did not come to recall the old compositions, but to present the whole ensemble playing old songs as if fresh, as if the past had not ever existed. They began in the modern way with enthusiasm and it went on like this until the great finale A Whiter Shade of Pale from 1967.

The applause which filled a full Sala Kongresowa exploded earlier, because of the wonderful hits like Pandora’s Box, Homburg, Grand Hotel, A Salty Dog or Repent Walpurgis. Brooker, from the very beginning, put some family atmosphere into the scenery of the rock performance. He joked, tried to play a polonaise by Fryderyk Chopin and finally persuaded the band to play the Christmas piece God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen.

But the Procol Harum music was the most important thing that evening.

It was amazing and wonderful that the band decided to play compositions less-known by the wide audience. It was a ballad Magdalene, monumental Christmas Camel, the beautiful New Lamps For Old, the spirited Fires, the pathetic TV Caesar or ardent Wizard Man and hard-blues Memorial Drive.

The band has not changed the sound although they played harder, more powerfully, changing the previous arrangement in lots of songs (for example they played As Strong As Samson in the manner of The Police trio). Brooker, with his strong and husky voice, showed his disdain for the passing of time, and the whole band manipulated the audience's emotion in the masterful way.

Everybody knows that Procol Harum can affect, make one feel better, younger or contemplative. That 'transcendative vibration' stopped just half an hour before midnight. That was not just a merit of the great musicians and their skills but also of the organisers. The whole preparation for the concert was a success: excellent sound, interesting light play and a big screen (telebim) in the corner of the stage to zoom in. Everything made the atmosphere more special.

Above all Procol Harum means rock!

The band is famous for its ability to join a variety of music styles into one artistically coherent conglomerate (frequently called progressive rock), and for being better in concerts than records. This was confirmed on Friday. The finale composition Repent Walpurgis with its great cadence, with its Beethovenesque three or four climaxes, was something one can never forget. It evoked a storm of applause! After this instrumental composition the band came back to the stage after three minutes. The champagne was served. After a toast, Brooker with friends played the song Learn To Fly, and as mentioned before, John Lennon's favourite A Whiter Shade of Pale.

'We'll be back!' convinced the happy Procol Harum musicians after the concert. 'And we'll record a new album" they added.

All we can do is to wait and be patient.

Translated by Edyta Nadzieja

Procol Harum concerts in 2001: index page

Index of Polish dates, 2001

Thanks, Jonas Söderström, for the banner!

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