Procol Harum Dominion Theatre London 24 November 2014
Friday Night is Music Night (for BBC Radio 2)
Last night Procol Harum performed for ‘Friday Night Is Music Night’. The performance will be broadcast shortly on Radio 2. This special event took place at the Dominion Theatre in London, and Procol Harum were accompanied by the sixty piece BBC Concert Orchestra conducted by David Firman and the forty voice Crouch End Festival Chorus.
The current line-up of the band is founder member, singer/pianist and composer Gary Brooker, Matt Pegg on bass, Geoff Dunn on drums, and Josh Phillips on keyboards and Hammond organ. Their usual guitarist Geoff Whitehorn had been taken unwell a few days ago and was replaced at very short notice by Dave Colquhoun of Rick Wakeman’s band who did exceptionally well, having learnt the set in two days, and who was himself suffering from a broken ankle and walking on crutches. Procol Harum dont play in their home country very often these days, and it is many years since they have performed a symphonic set in the UK.
The venue for this unique concert was the Dominion theatre, a beautiful 2,000 seater hall, which sits at the end of Oxford Street in Tottenham Court Road, and has for the past 12 years been the home of Queen’s We Will Rock You musical. The concert was sold out, with Procol Harum fans travelling from around the world to experience this performance.
The orchestra and choir filled the entire stage, and a small stage had been constructed for the band, just above the orchestra pit. The concert started at 7.30pm sharp, with the familiar chords of Homburg and the opening line “Your multilingual business friend, Has packed her bags and fled” filling the theatre and sending shivers down our spines. Songs like these were written to be performed with orchestral accompaniment, and Gary Brooker’s voice rang strong and clear above the majesty of the music. A perfect opening song. This was followed by Simple Sister from 1971’s Broken Barricades, and Grand Hotel from the 1973 album of the same name. Gary explained how, at the of the album’s release the band would stay in the best hotels, eat in the best restaurant, and travel in limousines, and joked that for this concert he came on the tube, ate a takeaway burger, and that they had to finish the show on time so that he could catch the last train home. This was followed by Fires (Which Burnt Brightly) which is also from Grand Hotel. Next was Misssing Person, which is a Brooker solo track, and was performed by the band only, sans orchestra . Broken Barricades was then followed by Sympathy for the Hard of Hearing, which Gary dedicated to those who have fought for their country. The first set closed with an epic version of A Salty Dog which Gary dedicated to Alvin Stardust, Jack Bruce, and also to Geoff Whitehorn who was apparently texting his best wishes to the band from his hospital bed, and was surely there in spirit.
After a short interval the concert resumed. The second half started with a second attempt of the opening section of A Salty Dog, to remedy ‘a technical fault’ for the purposes of the recording for radio, although I am sure none of us had noticed any technical fault the first time round. This was followed by Wall Street Blues (band only), Something Magic, Nothing But the Truth and Into the Flood. The Gary announced the song that “started it all for us in 1967” which sounded just great, with a strong passionate vocal performance by Gary and Josh on Hammond, recreating the texture and sound of the Hammond solos to perfection. The song received an amazing reception from the audience with applause which seemed to go for ever and a standing ovation with the who,e theatre on their feet. Amazing. The concert closed with An Old English Dream, and The Blink of an Eye (Gary explained how the song was written about 9/11, how the band would often talk to the New York fireman as they passed by the fore station, and how many of those men lost their lives). The encore was Conquistador. A truly epic concert. It’s a shame that Procol Harum don’t play more often in this country. Gary joked at one point that he “wasn’t sure if the band would make their 50th”. I’m sure they will, and based on this performance they continue to go from strength to strength.
Setlist: Homburg; Simple Sister; Grand Hotel; Fires (Which Burnt Brightly); Missing Person; Broken Barricades; Sympathy for the Hard of Hearing; A Salty Dog
A Salty Dog opening; Wall Street Blues; Something Magic; Nothing But the Truth; Into the Flood; A Whiter Shade of Pale; An Old English Dream; The Blink of an Eye; Grand Finale
Stayed at David and Shauna’s and I’m typing this on the train back home.
Archive for the ‘Procol Harum’ Category
Procol Harum Dominion Theatre London 24 November 2014
Procol Harum live Newcastle 1973, Reading 1974 and Middlesbrough 1976
I am a big fan of Procol Harum, although I have only seen them three times in concert. White Shade of Pale, Homburg and Conquistador remain favourite songs of mine to this day. Their appearances in the UK are few and far between these days; although they do continue to play a small number of shows in mainland Europe. I first saw Procol Harum at a concert in Newcastle City Hall on 16th March 1973. The 1973 line up was Gary Brooker (keyboards, vocals), Alan Cartwright (bass), Chris Copping (keyboards), Mick Grabham (guitar), B J Wilson (drums), Keith Reid (lyrics). Support for the concert at the City Hall came from Hemlock, who were a new blues rock band fronted by Miller Anderson (ex Keef Hartley band). My memories of the performance are of a great, powerful set, which started with Conquistador, but I was also disappointed that they didn’t play White Shade of Pale that night. The setlist will have been something like this (based on published setlists of the time): Conquistador; Bringing Home the Bacon; Toujours L’Amour; The Devil Came from Kansas; Homburg; Fires (Which Burnt Brightly); For Liquorice John; Whaling Stories; Grand Hotel; Kaleidoscope; Robert’s Box; Power Failure; Simple Sister; Repent Walpurgis; A Salty Dog.
I next saw Procol Harum at the Reading Festival in 1974. They played, I think, on the Saturday afternoon, and were equally as good; and this time they did play Whiter Shade of Pale 🙂 . The next time I saw Procol was at a concert at Middlesbrough Town Hall on 7th January 1976. This time there were supported by the very brilliant and much-lamented Vivian Stanshall, who entertained us with a crazy set featuring Bonzo classics and his solo material. Procol were magnificent that night, the swirling chords of their majestic pieces reverberating around the beautiful main hall of Middlesbrough town hall. They were joined by Viv Stanshall for the encores which included a crazy song called the Browns, which Viv had written with Keith Reid; it was based on a story Viv had read in the newspaper about a family called the Browns. The setlist will have been something like this (based on published setlists of the time): Toujours l’Amour; Bringing Home the Bacon; Shine on Brightly; Fresh Fruit; As Strong as Samson; The Unquiet Zone; Grand Hotel; Conquistador; Pandora’s Box; Cerdes (Outside the Gates of); Souvenir of London; Power Failure; A Salty Dog; The Blue Danube. Encores: I keep Forgetting; The Browns (with Viv Stanshall); A Whiter Shade of Pale. The Middlesbrough gig was the last time I saw Procol in concert, although I had a ticket for a gig at the Tyne Theatre in Newcastle in 2002, which was sadly cancelled. I still have my ticket which is pictured here. I hope I can get to see them one more time, and await their next performance in the UK. Thanks to John for his scan of the poster from the 1973 Newcastle City Hall concert with Hemlock support.