Procol Harum at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire
50 years (and one day) after the release of their debut single A Whiter Shade of Pale, Procol Harum are back in London to take their fans on a stroll down memory lane. Gary Brooker is the only “survivor” of the original line-up who went through tumultuous times – in particular the infamous lawsuit that organist Matthew Fisher won, obtaining 40% of the writing credits of their classic hit.
The English five-piece have just released their first album in nearly 15 years, and from it they choose I Told on You to open the initial of two sets of their two-hour-and-a-half show (including lengthy chats and a substantial interval). Sitting at his piano, Brooker entertains the crowd with funny anecdotes; he still impresses with undeniable musicianship, however, the same can’t be said of the rest of the band who sound like touring musicians on a one-off gig rather than permanent members.
After a break, they come back to play Image of the Beast, An Old English Dream and Grand Hotel. It is in introducing the latter of these that nostalgia of the glory days surfaces; as opposed to when they were sipping champagne whilst enjoying reindeer with cranberry sauce, their last night’s accommodation did not include breakfast, and in the morning they had to take a bus and the tube to reach the venue.
The Only One, from their new record, is the surprise of the night. This heartfelt piano ballad opens the encore and, despite its overly egocentric lyrics, it has a very genuine appeal. Shortly after, the hammond notes of A Whiter Shade of Pale ignite the Shepherd’s Bush Empire, turning the clocks back to 1967 for the viewers – and to an unspecified historic moment in time for those (like yours truly) who were not born yet back then. Brooker shows all the power and magic of his voice as he sings “We skipped the light fandango / Turned cartwheels ‘cross the floor”. The five minutes of pure bliss run too quickly but, by the end of it, everyone feels like their life is a little more complete.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
For further information about Procol Harum and future events visit here.