Procol Harum

the Pale

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Procol Harum in Paris

Chris Welch in 'Rock World' (1992)

It's been a long time since Procol Harum, the band led by keyboard man and singer, Gary Brooker, first unleashed its wondrous music. Noone knew quite what to expect on the night of their Paris show.

But then, nothing was ever predictable about the band that created Grand Hotel, A Salty Dog and A Whiter Shade Of Pale. The latter was the superb Bach-tinged epic rock anthem that stunned the rock world in May 1967.

We heard all these songs and more during a brilliant performance by a revamped Procol, featuring Gary on a 'magic' grand piano. He was backed by fellow keyboard-man Matthew Fisher, guitarist Geoff Whitehorn, bassist Dave Bronze and drummer Mark Brzezicki; these are the men who have breathed new life into the old dog.

Procol Harum '92 style proved a brighter, tighter and more energetic outfit than the sometimes enigmatic, laid-back outfit of yore. Brooker himself seemed reborn, and revitalised, talking to the audience in animated, fluent French. Such was the power of his perfectly-balanced miniature orchestra, that one young girl began literally turning the proverbial cartwheels across the balcony floor.

'Commander' Brooker, clad in a naval blazer, sang and played with dignity such famous Procol pieces as Conquistador, followed by the funky Bringing Home The Bacon, Shine On Brightly, Homburg and Pandora's Box with its hypnotic bassline. The cleverly-arranged tango, Grand Hotel was simply astounding. The Devil Came From Kansas, Whiskey Train and A Salty Dog all [sic] displayed poignant romanticism.

The band were exemplary, Geoff Whitehorn's guitar almost floated above the rhapsodic keyboards while Mark Brzezicki, of Big Country fame, was tight and disciplined, even during his laid-back drum solo. But the Procols could let their hair town too, racing through the Jerry Lee Lewis version of Little Queenie. 'That was one of the first songs I ever played, in my R&B days,' reminisced Gary later.

The French loved Procol. Now we should welcome them back!

Setlist for this show

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