Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at Bellinzona, Switzerland

Setlist • 24 July 2015 • rain stopped play

Brooker, Dunn, Pegg, Phillips, Whitehorn

If you were able to get to this show, please send us your photos, souvenirs and bulletins




Back in the relative dry, Geoff Dunn made some telling contributions to the drama of this arrangement. It was nice to see him on the huge monitor directly behind the band, though the feed was a second delayed or so, a disconcerting offset


A fine roar of appreciation from the sodden crowd as this song started 

Pandora's Box

Great organ cadenza, but first clear indications that the water had got into the works and was causing difficulties

They Had to Shoot Him Down (Justifiable Homicide)

This sounded even better than last night: a new song that is settling in very stylishly

Rambling On

'Lucy in the sky with diamonds' sung by Gary and Geoff three times in the playout

Whaling Stories

Very appropriate for the conditions. Chris Cooke’s torch provided the ‘lightning struck out’

A Salty Dog

Power failed on the very last note, killing the seagulls and leaving the ailing Hammond high if not exactly dry


Without any orchestral effects, since the Motif had succumbed to the deluge, and Josh wrestled to control the output of the saturated Digital B3 which had lost many drawbars and was sounding increasingly unhappy

A Whiter Shade of Pale (two verses)

Preceded by some Sledge and some Marley, well-paced and well-received. Chris Cooke standing behind the piano with a poppy-red umbrella, sheltering Gary and the piano from the advancing storm: see illustration below


9 songs altogether: 2 From Procol Harum 1 from Shine on Brightly
1 From A Salty Dog 1 From Home   from Broken Barricades
  From Grand Hotel   From Exotic Birds and Fruit 1 from Procol's Ninth
  From Something Magic   From The Prodigal Stranger   from The Well's on Fire
2 non-album tracks 1 Not yet recorded in studios

Hard to make any detailed song-notes in the conditions. Hastily compiled general recollections follow ...


This gig was unfortunately plagued by terrible weather, the first rain of July in what is effectively Italy; when the first storm struck at about 6 pm, soundman Geoff Curtis reported experiencing ‘a maelstrom’ at the arena, where the wind is funnelled into turbulence by the nearby cliff.

Though the FOH sound desk was properly battened down, he could feel moisture immediately he put his hand under the protective cloth. The support band did not appear. A second storm, around 8 pm, took out stage lights and a lot of the sound gear, and for a long while it seemed likely the show would have to be cancelled.

The diehards in the crowd watched in horror as (for instance) the Yamaha Motif synth was picked up and tilted, and water poured out from under its keys. A hardworking team ensured things were dried out and plugged in, and eventually -- to our apprehensive relief -- it was clear that Procol would appear.

Since the FOH sound had died, the PA was powered (quietly) through the onstage monitor mixer, instructions being radioed in from a position near the dead sound board. Chris Cooke made the crowd-friendly decision to start the show -- already running late -- and establish a mix as the evening progressed.

He later commented, 'While I can be credited for making the decision for the show going ahead, there is no way that this could have happened without the efforts of Simon Grocott, Thomas Wylie, Geoff Curtis and John Magner. My decision was based on their input, and in my belief that they would deliver; and they did -- big time. They’re the ones that deserve the credit for Bellinzona, not me.'

The stage lights were initially very flat but some did come back to life. Early on a technician, armed with a long pole like a Victorian lamplighter’s, teetered about in front of Geoff Whitehorn trying to redirect a floodlight that had been shifted by the storm.

As Gary Brooker had said, when the band took the stage, ‘If this was Oasis we’d already be on the plane home’. Procol Harum made a plucky stab at their set in progressively inimical conditions. Initially the weather was quiescent, but wind and rain picked up, and cables and connectors that had been made safe before the music could begin were again flooded.

Umbrellas were deployed on stage, one fixed down with tape over Geoff Whitehorn’s ‘teasmaid’ through which he plays his guitar; Chris Cooke and his umbrella latterly stood by in a very oriental pose (pictured) protecting Gary. But Chris had been coming on stage and deleting entries from the setlist as it became obvious that to continue playing would be dangerous; and the band called it a day after ten numbers (counting the prelude).

It was inevitably a sad contrast to the excellence of the Winterbach show the evening before. In some ways the most regrettable omission was a specially Procolised Come Together, arranged in order to appeal to an audience drawn in by the Bellinzona Beatles strapline of the whole festival; also heard at soundcheck, we learn, were Hey Jude and Let it Be (as well as staples Shine on Brightly and Grand Hotel). Yellow Submarine or Rain might have been apposite too ...

Photo: Gary Brooker plays A Whiter Shade of Pale in torrential rain, sheltered by manager Chris Cooke very much in Prodigal Stranger mode

Words and picture by Roland from BtP.


Procol dates in 2015 | Booking

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