'Live at the Union Chapel' is my very first exposure to late '60s British band Procol Harum. In all honesty, I had never heard of them prior to this, let alone heard any of their music. But being a fan of '60s rock, I figured it was well worth giving them a shot.
My ex-hippie father describes Procol Harum as an "ahead of their time" band, blending classic rock with R&B and soulfull blues. Although completely unique and highly talented, they just couldn't reach the heightened level of popularity of other bands at that time. Their biggest hit in U.S. was "A Whiter Shade of Pale," the type of song you would have heard on 'The Wonder Years' or 'Forrest Gump.'
Being from such a notorious Rock era, 'Live at the Union Chapel' is nothing what you would expect. Frontman Gary Brooker is piano-bound. Due to the legendary intimate setting, their stage is so small that there's no movement. The guitar solos are restrained. The keyboard is overpowering. And most importantly, the band never plays anything that makes you want to get up out of your seat.
The first set of the concert lasts 43 minutes. Everything within it is dull and repetitious. Each song sounds like the last. And while the second set steps it up a little, it still isn't anything worth getting excited about. The best thing about the second set is that it begins changing genres, but even then every song tends to sound the same.
For those watching 'Live at the Union Chapel' just to hear "A Whiter Shade of Pale," you have to wait until the very end of the two-hour concert to get it - it lies dead last as the final song of the encore. But because of audio issues that we'll talk about later, it may not be worth your while.
The setlist for the evening is as follows: "Underture," "Shine on Brightly," "Pandora's Box," "An Old English Dream," "Grand Hotel," "Homburg," "Quite Rightly So," "Simple Sister," "Weisselklenzanacht (The Signature)," "Shadow Boxed," "The Question," "Wall Street Blues," "This World is Rich," "As Strong As Samson," "Every Dog Will Have His Day," "A Salty Dog," "Conquistador," "VIP Room," "Whiskey Train," "Good Captain Clack" and "A Whiter Shade of Pale."
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Eagle Rock Entertainment delivers 'Procol Harum: Live at the Union Chapel' on a single BD-50 disc in a standard blue keepcase. The disc kicks off with a short promo for Eagle Rock Entertainment, then takes you straight to the main menu.
Considering 'Procol Harum: Live at the Union Chapel' was brought to Blu-ray by the same company that gave us the recently strongly reviewed 'Yes: Symphonic Live' Blu-ray, you expect it to have the same top-notch quality. Unfortunately, that's not the case. Also featuring 1080i-AVC video with a 1.78:1 aspect ratio, 'Live at the Union Chapel' falls victim to many video flaws.
In almost every wide shot, thick noise clogs the screen - but close-ups are the opposite. Tight shots are crisp and noiseless, featuring truly deep blacks. Wide shots turn those blacks in grays. The stage-revealing wide shots are congested with so much noise, especially in the spotlights, that it creates an artificially hazy look for the chapel venue. Noise is not only noticeable over blacks, but even over the vibrant colors, creating an odd shimmering effect. It's a real shame that there couldn't be more consistency in this area because the close-ups are rich in detail, revealing individual specks of dust on black piano keys and tiny wrinkles on the player's hands.
Likely due to cameraman error, many shots seem to rack in and out of focus without rhyme or reason. There are more out of focus shots during this concert than there are in-focus shots.
The audio quality is just as underwhelming as the video quality. Despite having options for LPCM Stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS HD Master Audio, no matter which option you choose, you will not be satisfied.
Born of parents with great taste in musical selection, I enjoy live music - but the individual performances given by Procol Harum's members here are wasted by low quality audio. As a whole, the band may not have impressed me, but each individual member is extremely talented. The poor audio causes guitarist Geoff Whitehorn's rock 'n roll riffs and frontman Gary Brooker's beautiful piano playing to carry less weight. The audio mix always feels flat. Each instrument seems to be at the exact same level as the others - with the exception of the often too strong organ - and rarely change from channel to channel.
Most of the time, the audio sounds a tad muffled and distorted. But the biggest travesty occurs during the band's most anticipated song, "A Whiter Shade of Pale." Procol Harum saves their best song for last, but several times during it the speakers pop and click. I even tried replaying those moments to make sure it wasn't my gear, but just like they did the first time, they popped and clicked once again.
Many shots of the audience show stern-faced men sitting with their arms folded with an "I'm not impressed" look on their faces. After witnessing the low video and audio quality of 'Live at the Union Chapel,' I found myself poised in that exact same position with the same thought passing through my head. With distractingly noisy video and noticably distorted audio, the only folks who need own 'Live at the Union Chapel' are the die-hard Procol Harum fans who couldn't care less about the flaws.