Prog - - Take A Bow - CHRIS MC­GAREL


DATE 09/10/2018

On 18 novem­ber, 1971, Pro­col harum played a con­cert aug­mented by or­ches­tra and choir. re­leased the fol­low­ing year as live: in con­cert with the ed­mon­ton sym­phony or­ches­tra, the live doc­u­ment would go on to be their big­gest seller. tonight in lon­don, the cur­rent in­car­na­tion re­pro­duce that al­bum, aided by the sen­bla or­ches­tra and english cham­ber choir.

leader Gary Brooker takes the stage to a rous­ing wel­come from a par­ti­san crowd who clearly hold him in deep af­fec­tion. it sets the at­mos­phere for what prom­ises to be a spe­cial night of sym­phonic prog.

con­quis­ta­dor daz­zles with its ef­fort­less com­plex­ity. cin­e­matic ser­gio leone strings and trum­pet flour­ishes are sub­lime, while Ge­off white­horn’s dex­trous lead gui­tar grounds us in rock. and yet there’s a prob­lem – Brooker’s un­mis­tak­able voice sounds laboured and crack­ing. the choir pro­vide sup­port dur­ing all this and more, af­ter which Brooker ad­dresses the is­sue by ap­ply­ing a well-known swiss-brand throat lozenge and “some­thing medic­i­nal”, and he sails through the fol­low­ing luskus delph.

a salty dog gives the massed ensem­ble an op­por­tu­nity to flex their mus­cles. when the or­ches­tra and choir join forces in its cli­mac­tic de­noue­ment, the bal­cony above us starts to rat­tle in res­o­nant sym­pa­thy. it’s a mag­nif­i­cent ren­di­tion that’s none­the­less over­shad­owed by the

epic five move­ments of in held ’twas in i, which ca­reers from dark mys­ti­cism to sur­real mu­sic hall via ro­man­tic choral mu­sic. Breath­tak­ing.

the sec­ond set shifts gear with hard rock­ers Busi­ness­man from

2017’s novum and sel­dom-per­formed B-side into the Flood. in jovial form, Brooker be­gins, “if any­body’s got any re­quests…” to numer­ous shouted pleas, be­fore fin­ish­ing “…we won’t be play­ing any of them.” in­stead, an­other rar­ity, within our house, is ded­i­cated to the Pro­col faith­ful and ab­sent friends. its hymn-like ca­dences raise goose­bumps.

whal­ing sto­ries from the orig­i­nal ed­mon­ton con­cert then fi­nally shows up, omit­ted by an ear­lier setlist mal­func­tion. its dra­matic heavy riff­ing ren­ders it the per­fect closer.

a whiter shade of Pale sum­mons those goose­bumps again. the in­stru­men­ta­tion matches its baroque ori­gins and it soars. con­quis­ta­dor is reprised in an or­ches­tra­tion by col­lab­o­ra­tor ni­cholas dodd, a fit­ting end to an evening’s mas­ter­class in ar­rang­ing sym­phonic rock, not merely aug­ment­ing the band but el­e­vat­ing their mu­sic.

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