Procol Harum

the Pale

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No Stiletto Shoes

Royal Albert Hall Tuesday 25 March

The gap in Procol Harum's five-date German tour looks like a day off for rest and recuperation, but, as Gary revealed to Radio 2 listeners earlier in the month, his rest and recuperation consisted of flying back to the UK to play with Eric Clapton in the Albert Hall. The ensemble, though billed as "Eric Clapton and Friends", was in fact the 'other' Brooker group, No Stiletto Shoes, seen in exactly the same line-up (give or take a reed-player) at Franky's charity concert just three months earlier. On this occasion the Shoes were part of a line-up convening in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust. Diane Rolph, Gary's PA, reports:

Eric Clapton (lead guitar / vocals), Gary Brooker (piano / organ / vocals), Andy Fairweather-Low (lead / rhythm guitar / vocals), Dave Bronze (bass guitar), Henry Spinetti (drums)

Set-list (vocalist in brackets)

10. Got My Mojo Workin’ (EC)

1. In the Midnight Hour (EC)

11. Hoochie Coochie Man (EC)

2. Reconsider Baby (EC)

12. Whole Lot o' Shakin’ (GB)

3. You Can’t Judge a Book (GB)

13. Gin House (AF-L)

4. Blueberry Hill (GB)

14. Have You Ever Been Mistreated? (EC)

5. Sweet Little Rock and Roller (EC)

15. Cocaine (EC)

6. Stormy Monday Blues (EC)

16. A Whiter Shade of Pale (GB)

7. If Paradise was Half as Nice (AF-L)

17. Layla (EC)

8. Good Golly Miss Molly (GB)


9. You Win Again (GB)

18. Little Queenie (GB)

A couple of months ago my younger daughter Annie, who’s the Assistant Manager of the Royal Albert Hall Box Office, rang me to say that Eric Clapton tickets were going on sale the next day and if I wanted some I’d better speak now or forever hold me peace.

"Any notification who’s playing with him?" I asked. "No, the promoter doesn’t say", she replied. She reeled of the ticket prices – ouch! So I consulted Procol’s advance gig list and ascertained that this gig fell right in the middle of the German dates. So Gary wouldn’t be playing, that was for sure. Now my friend Liz and I have seen EC twice in the last couple of months, and were both still feeling the post-Christmas pinch, so decided that perhaps we’d better give this one a miss, and told Annie so.

A couple of days later Franky rang me about something else, and I said to her, "Just confirm for me that Gary’s NOT playing with EC at the RAH on 25 March". "Oh yes he is," she said, "He’s coming back from Germany especially, so you’d better get on to Annie quick!" It’s very useful having her work there, because by chance she’d got a couple of returns and allocated them to me.

Originally billed to play the first half was Mark Knopfler and Friends. Unfortunately, he had quite a serious motor cycle accident a couple of weeks ago, and had to pull out. His place was taken by Nigel Kennedy and Friends playing a jazz set – they are playing at Ronnie Scott’s this week. I’ve never seen Nigel Kennedy perform before – it was interesting – with a band of mostly Polish musicians whose competence was amazing. Modern Jazz is not really my thing, but there were some fascinating moments in his set – Liz and I found ourselves rather enjoying it. However, I would not wish to see Nigel Kennedy again, as between pieces he conversed with (insulted in our case!) the audience using f*ck and sh*t every other word. And it was not just Liz and me who were offended; it was the subject of the chatter of the audience during the interval. Certainly not something ever heard from the gentleman musicians who were to follow.

So ‘The Shoes’ took to the stage. From Village Hall to Royal Albert Hall, they are magnificent! The set list speaks for itself so I won’t go into each individual number except to say that despite the billing, these guys are very much a ‘band’ – EC generously handing vocals to both Gary and Andy Fairweather-Low, and at no time dominating the proceedings; just sharing the applause with the band members.

It was sort of ‘beard’ night too – following Gary’s example EC was back to his ‘designer stubble’, Andy was sporting a ‘goatee’ and even Bronzie’s grown one.

Absolute highlights were Andy’s Gin House, something he used to decline to sing: and he also had the audience la, la, la-ing during If Paradise was Half as Nice. Bronzie’s bass solo in the encore, Little Queenie was tremendous. Predictably of course it was the crowd pleasers AWSoP and Layla that brought the audience to their feet. EC’s guitar solo during AWSoP was especially memorable.

I had wondered if Gary would be showing signs of tiredness after touring in Holland and Germany and then jumping on a 'plane that morning back from Germany – but no, he was in finest form! There was not the slightest indication of lack of rehearsal either and I suppose there probably wasn’t one – but you’d never have known!

At the end of the show about ten teenage cancer suffers walked on stage to wave to the audience in appreciation of the money raised – a nice touch.

So yes, it was money very well spent, and I’d have really kicked myself if I’d given this one a miss and then read at BtP that it was actually No Stiletto Shoes playing with that incredible set list!

Gary played Blueberry Hill the first time I ever saw him play, in 1963! That rolling piano made just as much impact last night as then and – yes, I love Procol music, but I’m the first to admit it – I’m a Paramounts girl at heart!

Thanks, Diane

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