Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum • New York, USA

Setlist • 27 February 2019

Brooker, Dunn, Pegg, Phillips, Whitehorn
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I Told on You

Gary Brooker’s piano has been slewed to a new angle so he now commands a better view of the whole auditorium.  In the ‘I told on you’ finale, under the bass voices there was very appealing growly organ

Pandora's Box

Notable longevity of Mick Grabham’s guitar break, its contour still clear behind Geoff’s characteristic elaborations. A new guitar counterpoint melody in the first line of verse 3. Cadenza chords, which start with the piano, delivered in such a leisurely fashion. Josh’s final organ run long, deft and intricate.

'Any virgin Procolites tonight? Vestal virgins?' (views audience members in question) 'Not quite how I imagined them, somehow …'


Band intros. GB advertises the Procol Harum shop, and urges customers to find an ATM, since it is cash-only.

Imagine my surprise on first hearing this song live, with the key-change ending instead of the fade,  at University College London in about 1974.

 GW name-checks Gary Brooker during the applause at the end of the song … ‘Your cheque’s in the post!’ says GB.

Procol’s Ninth, in the plain grey cover – that really worked.' GB says 'IXth', then adds, 'Even our name is Roman ... and it was born in The Unquiet Zone

Somebody calls out for As Strong as Samson

The Unquiet Zone

Not as fast nor as frantic as last night, but still exciting, and a terrific guitar solo

Last Chance Motel

Nice to hear the four good harmony voices together, and even fans who don’t particularly like the song will probably concede that it’s an attractive arrangement. The falling ‘ostracised’ accompaniment is somewhat reminiscent of the ‘because, you know’ episode in Businessman.

A wave of applause as this song is ending suggests that there are plenty of fans for a parody so accurate as to be indistinguishable from the real thing

The Devil Came
from Kansas

‘The only Procol Harum song with an American name in the title,’ says Gary. Later on, reminded by a pedantic webmaster that Niagara is half in America, he says ‘Ooh, I like that one.’ Difficult for members of the audience to insert the handclaps, BJ style,  in the little drum break as we remember them.

Geoff Whitehorn indulges in a bit of bimanual widdling and lots of harmonics … a real masterclass in developing a solo, especially give the very static harmonic substrate offered by this tune.

'The Lord said we must rest once a day. We take Sundays off. What key? C? That’s nice and easy – all the white notes ...'

Sunday Morning

What a build-up! Its emotional range is like that of Barnyard Story, but the contrast of the super-bluesy vocal over the Pachelbel bassline is more than reminiscent of something about A Whiter Shade of Pale.

Metronomic clicking starts to emanate from the piano … GB has pressed the wrong button. 120 clicks per minute … Procol start to play Jive Talking … but conclude that ‘that is just not a Procol Harum tempo.’

Simple Sister

A splendid rumpus, and very warmly received as the crowd goes into the City Winery interval. A fellow Bristolian, most unexpectedly encountered at the merch stall, tells me that they also sell cider … cheers, Phil!

Bringing Home
the Bacon

Much more energy coming off the stage From the very beginning of this second half. Notable music-biz figures in tonight’s audience include Terry Ellis comment from Chrysalis Records, Spencer Zahn who designed and illustrated the Grand Hotel booklet, and Long Islander Ronnie D'Addario, father of The Lemon Twigs and a great songwriter and recording artist in his own right

'Loaded bloated curse': Matt and Geoff put in a little lick together. Gary’s insert in the gaps verse tonight is Hall of the Mountain King, Josh's is Smoke on the Water. Terrific finale with some notable cowbell tintinnabulation on the outro

'Music is just music,' says Gary, 'but Procol Harum lyrics just don’t go out of date.' He namechecks Keith Reid.

As Strong as Samson

Very quiet, reflective start; thickly treated guitar comes in on 'bankers and brokers'. Another song with a mesmerising build up. Matt Pegg squirrels in a great bass run before the four-man ‘ooh’ harmony winds the piece up.

Now that the audience believes they've heard a request played, there are tremendous shouts for personal favourites between every song.

Shine on Brightly

Mental blocks are of course infrequent, but there's a mild fade on the second line of the vocal; the overall effect delights the crowd. Geoff Whitehorn doubling the organ arpeggios in verse two. Beatific happiness spreads through the hall. A touch of ‘Il tuo diamante’ ...

Gary is chatting to the audience about 'sweetness'; a horrible chord comes from the piano: ‘That’s what sugar does to you.’ But in fact it is the first of the four bitonal chords that preface Whaling Stories. At soundcheck, this song had been prefaced by most of the little jazzy licks that fans remember so well from the WPLJ-FM concert version (1971). If only some enterprising record company would bring that out in a fully re-mastered edition, maybe with another live concert for good measure and a full set of bonus tracks from the then-new album Broken Barricades!


Whaling Stories

Geoff Whitehorn makes the steam noise, Gary Brooker makes the scream noise. Geoof waits ages before putting in the baleful chords in the rising bass guitar build-up: so exciting! Speedy bimanual runs as well as soulful Troweresque wailing … tremendous soloing, and lovely organ registration for ‘daybreak’. This one certainly got Unsteady Freddie to his feet.

And then someone in the audience shouted out a request: Whaling Stories!

Gary’s Ricola advert, for anyone who suffers from a dry throat. ‘Ten years I’ve been doing this, and they still haven’t sent me any. That’s why the Swiss are so rich.’ And later, ‘American Express cheques? Not worth the money they’re written on.’

‘We’re not here to build walls' (great cheers)


As good and bashy as ever. 'We’ll probably still be playing that in twenty-five years, if the Lord blesses us … and if Tronald Dump is gone. Where not political in Procol Harum … we just don’t like walls.’



Strange to have a whole tune strummed by Geoff on acoustic-flavoured guitar. The band was so enjoying it that there was a bit of an overrun … ‘It’s only got three chords and we got lost at the end. We’ll write more chords next time. Next one is so simple [sic] even seagulls understand it ... ' 

A Salty Dog

In the quiet, chilling introduction some impudent oaf bellows 'Pilgrims Progress', pronouncing the second word as if it had a double ‘g’ in it. Otherwise it was an exemplary, respectful audience … easily the most attentive of the three night ‘residency’ at the City Winery.

A wonderful performance


Gary counting the oceans of the world … gets up to Seven Seas without a mention of the Baltic! We’ve never played in South America, he muses, going on to play a bit of One Note Samba by  Antônio Carlos Jobim. 'One note, and he made money out of that?'

So does Gary do the trumpet intro sound these days? I couldn't quite see. Another huge standing ovation

'We can’t go without letting you hear the song that made us famous.' This room seems exactly right for everything in  the first verse, GB says, maybe Keith Reid had foreseen it?

A Whiter Shade of Pale (three verses)

Slow start ... bit of Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, then Bob Marley ... no spoken spiel about dropping bass-lines; little bit of Grand Hotel; thuggish rapping of first two lines of Homburg; then Percy Sledge; then Air on the G String, then suddenly, without warning, into a three-verse AWSoP. The band really listens to each other to pick up cues! First instrumental break guitar ending with plenty of harmonics; second verse 'shore leave'; second instrumental break shared between piano and organ. Final verse 'no reason'.

And thus ended another mesmerising concert ...


17 songs altogether: 1 From Procol Harum 1 from Shine on Brightly
2 From A Salty Dog 1 From Home 1 from Broken Barricades
1 From Grand Hotel 1 From Exotic Birds and Fruit 2 from Procol's Ninth
  From Something Magic   From The Prodigal Stranger   from The Well's on Fire
5 From Novum 2 non-album tracks Who writes this stuff? Why does he or she bother? And if it's worth publishing, why don't they get a name-check?


Procol dates in 2019 | Booking

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