Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum at Szczecin, Poland, 2017

Words and pictures by Mac Gajda for BtP

Azoty Arena Szczecin, 13 October 2017

Two Polish dates on the fiftieth anniversary Procol tour were added much later than all the others, and completed the tour with Szczecin gig on 13 October and Katowice two days later. Poland used to be the country where Procol Harum was particularly appreciated over  the years (since 1976) though Szczecin was the first time ever visited by the band.

The concert took place in a new sport/concert hall of Azoty Arena with average acoustics, typical for this type of building. Despite poor promotion (with except of local Radio Szczecin) the crowd of more than 1,500 people, mostly middle aged, gathered that Friday night to enjoy the music. Before Procol’s appearance they were warmed up by a Polish progressive rock group named RSC  playing somehow in Kansas band style. Interestingly, one of their numbers was dedicated by the band’s leader to Gary Brooker  with full admiration to  Procol’s music (RSC band was set up in 1981)!

After a short break Mr Grzegorz Lament, Szczecin Radio presenter,  introduced Procol. (The same radio presenter interviewed Gary earlier that day, it could be viewed and listened to on The band stepped on stage with Gary in the lead, dressed up in Captain’s uniform, appropriately to the place (Szczecin is a big seaport and cradle of seamen). In dark blue light they started with I Told on You. First notes of Pandora’s Box made already everyone applaud, moderately. Big appreciation, and the next songs were rolling on with occasional Gary’s comments ... though more sparingly than usually. He referred  to Friday, mentioning  upcoming Sunday when we all shouted Sunday Morning. This being well recognised and welcomed by the audience.

It was followed by magnificent Whaling Stories (preceded by joint singing of What shall we Do with the Drunken Sailor) with Geoff's beautiful s solo, then coming back to Novum (Businessman) and again back to old numbers ... all delivered perfectly, with genuine involvement of all the members who felt themselves happy (or at least looked as though …) being there. This coupled with fantastic lighting and Gary’s overwhelming voice made the scene unforgettable. After Last Chance Motel  (on Polish Radio 3 Hit List !) there was Homburg and  Shine on Brightly , the latter one perhaps the best  version I’ve ever heard with Josh’s fantastic Hammond solo.
There was then discussion with the public ... how is Neighbour  in Polish ... and Gary announced “Sosiad!”, a lot of fun and laughing. Then A Salty Dog followed by Conquistador, and I thought: the end of the gig! Where’s The Only One, wouldn’t be played at all ? Fortunately , it was and was the absolute pinnacle of the night (not only in my opinion) despite that some of the people were hearing it for the first time. Gary singing emotionally in the hazy lights will leave my memories from this concert forever…  AWSoP  was an evident conclusion of that gig played at standing ovation of the audience.

Certainly, one of the best Procol performances I’ve ever seen over thirty years! Band sounded perfectly and maturely with full commitment but also personal emotion of each member (see some photos). And this all despite  the long tour behind them and the whole gig played in one go (with no intermission). When I saw the band after the gig all the members looked happy and fulfilled, with their work well done. Hope to see them again in that shape!

Gary and Mac, our correspondent


Procol dates in 2017 | Setlist

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