Procol Harum

the Pale

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Sopot, Poland, 1 June 2001

Review from Gazeta Wyborcza, Gdansk : 5 June 2001

A Whiter Shade of Star
Rock legend for centenary of Sopot

I have dreamt all my life to see them, told me long and white hairs elder chap that Friday night when I saw him climb arduously upstairs to Opera Lesna (The Forest Amphitheater). They are twice as old as we are, real dinosaurs, but the legend alive, a group of youngsters standing behind the fence explained to me, trying to excuse why they are there.

The British band Procol Harum, one of unquestionable pioneers of progressive rocks, played on 1st June in Sopot. There were two gigs scheduled for Poland on their Russian-European tour. The first one added splendour to centenary celebrations of Sopot spa resort. Its council members admit they are lovers of good old rock.

However, evidently the Friday gig was a happy event not only for the VIPs but also for a quite number of people from Three-City (Gdansk- Sopot - Gdynia), and not only. It was hardly to see a vacant seat on the audience. Whole families occupied the benches, and some of them remembered well Gary Brooker’s solo concert here back in 1978. Most of the audience were however blokes in their fifties. At least the same number of black-dressed grammar school students was watching the concert from behind the fence. Fortunately, despite quirky weather these days, it was not raining that night.

Timely "Good Evening"
Aged Brits came to play on the coast without a warm-up group. No wonder, though it is a great honour to open such a concert, merely no one has deserved it so far in Poland. Besides, the truth is that going for Procol Harum gig you just go to see them and there’s no need to be warmed up by the others.

Five gentlemen forming Procol Harum today came on the stage almost in accordance with the schedule when the audience was not quite seated. As they came by surprise, they started in the same way: lively and energetic. From the very beginning there was a great sound with monumental organ and rough, rock guitar.

Brooker dressed in brown suit greeted the audience with almost perfectly pronounced "Dobry wieczor" (Good Evening). After immediate applaud he added joking that he knew some more words in Polish such as "dziekuje" (thank you), "prosze” (please), "tak" (yes) and "nie" (no).

The Greatest Old Hits
Next Procol Harum performed a compilation of their greatest hits lasting 80 minutes. There included obviously Grand Hotel, based on J S Bach motives Homburg, a ballad A Salty Dog and a lively Conquistador.

During this short but highly professional performance, the older songs from sixties and seventies received the greatest applaud. Although the main part of the concert did not move the audience out from their seats, the crowd clapped in harmony and rocked in a rhythm.

On the Stage
There was much livelier on the stage. Despite their advanced age the musicians showed what they could afford. Opera Lesna was seized by a charismatic, rough and called sometime even woeful voice of Gary Brooker. A superb piano player was sitting stiff behind his instrument, getting up from time to time, and warming up himself and the audience. The band who some call the pioneers of gothic rock, let Matthew Fisher build up the mood by the sound of his Hammond. But also Geoff Whitehorn had his great time on guitar, and although he played occasionally his rough blues solos, he also gently accompanied symphonic sound tactfully and in moderation.

This long hair musician with his immortally tattooed arm, wearing white trainers and tight jeans took his vest off at one time and started twisting. The audience clapped and laughed to tears.

Then comes a short introduction of the members. The leader does not forget to mention about Polish origin of Mark Brzezicki, the new group’s drummer.

The band spectacularly comes down the stage towards the audience and the concert ends up. It’s ten minutes past ten.

Encore: the Manifest of Generation
How was it possible to leave the stage without performing the greatest hit of the group, A Whiter Shade of Pale, the manifest of generation? The Sopot audience did not let the group to disappear easily from the stage of Opera Lesna. After just a few minutes it called the group up on the stage for that only one encore. Unfortunately, I had the feeling that was a well-planned and little spontaneous encore. The hit well known in Poland ended up the concert. This 34 years old standard has been performed by famous rock stars including Joe Cocker, Michael Bolton, Annie Lennox from Eurorythmics and Ryszard Rynkowski in Poland. During performing, one could see lighters shining in the audience. And in such a way the hit, which made Procol famous at the beginning of their career, was the last one in Sopot.

After that only, though so satisfying encore, it was so good that no one could hold against the audience that it quietly stepped down the benches, which it stood up just a while before.

URR, Translated by Mac Gajda (thanks, Mac!)

Setlist for this gig

Index of Polish dates, 2001

Procol Harum concerts in 2001: index page


Thanks, Jonas Söderström, for the banner!

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