Procol Harum

the Pale

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Gary Brooker and Friends at Paris, France

Setlist and review by Roland from BtP • 27 June 2015

Gary Brooker
Judy Blair
Graham Broad
Matt Pegg
Geoff Whitehorn

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GB and Friends onstage
at 21:50; seventeen great
numbers, almost two hours of entertainment


Let’s work together

A defining opener, with mighty lead vocal from GB and solos from JB and GW. Crisp, clear sound in the New Morning club: full and commanding without being super-loud.


Baby Lee

A band bristling with confidence and pleasure at ‘working together’. Two piano solo verses. Gary explained that the songs we were due to hear tonight were ‘in the blood … hopefully your blood’

Let the Good Times Roll

Third No Stiletto Shoes standard in a row; magnificent organ solos from Judy Blair at the B3. Performance dedicated to Ray Charles


First tune of the night sung by Judy. All went fine, but gestures of sweeping sweat from foreheads shared by Geoff and Matt at the end. Gary addresses audience in French at the end and gets applause for his articulation of particular words. Needless to say we had the French versions of some well known GB tropes, such as ‘what time’s the last bus home?’

Lead Me to the Water

First GB solo item of the evening, all riding on terrific bass work by Matt and inventive, tasty drumming from Graham. Twin lead vocal, much of the time, shared by Gary and Geoff.


First Procol Harum tune of the night. No sign of the heavy prelude with which it started last time it was played (Ewhurst, 13 June). Quite a fast version by today’s Procol standard. JB conjures juicy sounds from the Hammond; remarkable lead break by GW during which MP looks over the guitarist’s shoulder in mock-puzzlement at the speedy bimanual playing. Amusing moment at the piano when, in the usual break for a showy glissando, GB produced instead a handful of solid bassy stabs.

When introducing the band, Gary name-checked Judy and asked if there was anyone in from Texas (there was!); Graham Broad was ‘the world-famous’ … quite rightly so; and the two fretmen were two friends he’d borrowed from Procol Harum ‘because nobody else would play for so little money’ or words to that effect. Hard to see how any money could have organised a more entertaining and virtuosic band who so evidently enjoyed playing together.

The Thrill is Gone

Sung very effectively by Geoff Whitehorn and dedicated by him to BB King; the words suddenly had a very different meaning and the whole performance was very poignant. Very fine guitar showcase. Gary didn’t play until the song started to wind down; he stood upstage of his piano playing air guitar.

Can’t Judge a Book

Back to the Stiletto repertoire; Mr Brooker in fantastic voice. Amusing vocal distortions at the end of the song from the high-spirited Commander, to the delight of all but the speech-therapists in the audience.  

Will You Still Love me Tomorrow?

This unexpected tune emerged from a slightly uncertain intro; Judy Blair sang, and the band gave it a robust treatment with heavily accented stabs, and dramatic silences, during the ‘when  the night’ parts. GB on vocal harmony.

Another Way

Great thrill to hear this Brooker solo song performed, probably for the first time since February 1983 when it was débuted by GB with the Spinetti/Renwick/Giblin/Cross band he put together for the well-known German TV show. The rather Elton John like BVs (think Goodbye Yellow Brick Road) from the record were not sung, but hinted at in a low-pitched counter-melody on guitar. However the rhythm stab on the first ‘cut me deep’ was replicated. Guitar solo, then organ. Tremendous stuff.

A Salty Dog

No dedication; straight in to this very enthusiastically-received version. Graham Broad (who slipped very easily back into the Procol material he played so brilliantly on the UK and US tours in 1995 … and at Redhill, of course, where he was the only drummer) was brilliantly inventive, especially in the second verse; GB in great voice, though he chose not to sing the upward slide into the title phrase from ‘since we made land’. Judy Blair told me afterwards that she’d enjoyed learning the new material. Intriguing to think that she’d had two runs-through, one without a proper Hammond, in the rehearsal studio adjoining the New Morning club.

(Start of Worried Life Blues)

GB said that he was scheduled a break, but felt ‘inspired’ (quite rightly so) so treated the audience to the unexpected opening – closely observed by his bandmates, who joined in as they cottoned on – to Worried Life Blues (I think it was) … but then decided not to sing the whole thing.

I Got a Woman

A Judy Blair organ feature, also sporting an excellent guitar break. JB had been cajoling GB to sing this, in rehearsal, and he’d declined: but on the night he did sing a bit, though never giving the impression that it was going to develop into a full vocal performance. Judy Blair, it must be emphasised, is an absolute star of the Hammond, a specialist in every way: registration, articulation, comping and soloing ... all done with ballsy panache and tasteful invention. Five stars out of five on the Jimmy Smith scale.

Old Black Joe

Right back to the earliest days for effectively the title track of the Paramounts’ DVD (I’m Coming Home … so named by the bloke who did the artwork and photography). Great pounding performance … GB gave it the fully Jerry Lee, and GW and JB delivered the call/response BVs … of a song that really doesn’t sound as though it was written in 1853. I wonder what Stephen Foster would make of this …

Blueberry Hill

Another No Stiletto Shoes staple. By now there was much dancing in the ‘pit’ area in front of the stage, around which seating was arranged on three sides.

Hang on Rose

This was a great treat; started and ended heavily, sung with pathos and great force. BVs from GW and JB. The band negotiated the oddities of its structure using a bit of telepathy, it seemed to me! Dutch Procol fans heard this a few times in 2007 … see here, here or here for example – though GB mentioned post-show that he had no recollection of playing it live before … and had had to learn it specially for this show. Glad he did!

A Whiter Shade of Pale\

Piano intro, straight into verse one; Hammond staying well back; first instrumental verse, piano, then immediately guitar; then vocal verse two, after which the well-known organ melody came through. A very pleasing performance, received with great delight by the Parisian audience.

Shake Rattle and Roll


Following this, protracted ovation and cries of ‘We Want More’ possibly started by the Texan contingent. After a long while, the band re-emerged and GW threatened us with some Deep Purple tunes, before their leader came back out, with his ‘Jus de Cassis, made in Poland’. The dancers all went into overdrive, probably frustrating the efforts of the YouTube brigade! GB, in magnificent voice, explained how the song was banned when it first came out, and sang the ‘one-eyed cat in the seafood store’ verse with particular relish, it seemed to me (GW and JB backed him on mic, MP backed him anyway without one) and the band sounded as though they could well have gone on for another hour: in fact they’d been onstage about 110 minutes. 

High spirits afterwards, with the musicians dispersedly chatting to fans including Palers John Grayson, Kate Hockley, Ian Hockley, Erik Sorensen, Stewart and Sue Edwards having left beforehand. BtP managed to get them together for a line-up shot ... see below ... and below that again, more text.

Pictured: Judy Blair, Graham Broad, Gary Brooker, Matt Pegg, Geoff Whitehorn

Two days’ rehearsal in England for the gentlemen of the band were followed by two sessions in Paris with addition of superb organist Judy Blair (playing some kind of synth until her Hammond arrived: it had been stuck on the Peripherique (‘ …and that’s one place you don’t want to get your organ stuck,’ as GW advised BtP)). A nice, intimate venue somewhat in the Ronnie Scott’s vein, with impeccable sound. The band had had a great and detailed soundcheck, but inevitably their monitor mix seemed to have changed a lot during the opening set by Nemo C Nemo. Still, all sounded fine in the auditorium. (Nemo C Nemo, incidentally, were a delight: a Soft Machine / Nucleus kind of flavour with plenty of surreal humour, some Piaf-like recitative moments, and Zappa-like tricksiness, three strong vocalists in the front line of keyboards, bass, and guitar, and a fine American drummer). Gary addressed the tightly-packed audience of close to 400 in English and French, which was very much appreciated – as was his teasing about taxi-drivers on strike, and his serious commentary about immigrants drowning in the Med, and trying to board lorries to get into the UK – and from the opening notes a warm and attentive atmosphere was established. It was maintained by the evident bonhomie of the players onstage (the gentlemen celebrating the 20th anniversary of their ‘Bucket and Spade’ tour in England, and the rather more throngsomely attended Steppenwolf, Jefferson Airplane-accompanied US tour). This was a considerable triumph for first-time promoter Roland Marzuoli – salut Roland! If anyone’s in two minds about going to Souillac ... the other gig in ‘our world tour of France’ as Geoff and Graham called it … for heaven’s sake, book your ticket today: the whole band is an utter delight – the singing is unbelievable – and the material is outstanding!


Procol Harum dates in 2015 | Review of this show

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