Here in the grape country of Upstate NY, wines are often described as pairing well with a particular dish—well, in this case, the dish was a full plate of classic rock n’ roll cooked to perfection by two of rock’s most legendary bands…

Procol Harum“Relaxed, yet thunderous,” are two superlatives you seldom, if ever, hear together. But I can think of no better way to describe Procol Harum’s performance at CMAC, a popular seasonal venue in upstate New York (6.17). Relaxed in the sense that lead vocalist Gary Brooker, who’s been there since the beginning and recently turned 65, chatted with the audience as if we were all over to his house for a poetry reading—and indeed, most of Harum’s music can stand on it’s own poetically. But that would be a waste of truly great group of musicians, who, along with Brooker on keyboards, provided the sonic dynamics necessary to bring these well written songs to that higher level we as musicians all seek. Brooker’s strong, highly recognizable voice remains powerful. With 45 years worth of material to select from, Harum performed a well constructed mix spanning the decades, including “Homberg” and “Conquistador” closing out their one hour-long set with (big surprise here..) “A Whiter Shade Of Pale.” All very well performed and an excellent open for what was yet to come.

Jethro Tull: Missing were the outlandish theatrics so common to the Jethro Tull big arena shows of the ‘70s and ‘80s, but that mattered not as the band passionately played for a crowd that may never be to old rock n’ roll. Tull’s all-time leader, Ian Anderson, who’ll be 63 in August, remains in fine voice and still quite capable of leaping about the stage as if he were one of his own “jacks in the green,” at times assuming his signature position, playing the flute while balanced statuetically with one leg raised and the other firmly welded to the stage. Apparently that incident with the cat earlier in the spring left no long term issues with regard to his playing of the flute or guitar.

With a musical history that’s contained on over forty albums, and includes a blending of blues, folk rock, progressive rock, breezy jazz, there was no shortage of interesting material. Many of the iconic Tull tunes of old were replayed, mixed with newer material, reaching out to all forms from celtic to east Indian. The arrangements themselves, as played by these five exceptional musicians*, were an essential part of the show, teasing the near capacity crowd of die hard fans, beckoning them to second guess what’s coming next, often times going off in a surprisingly different direction.

Typical Ian Anderson antics were present as he would grace along the front of the stage, flute to lips and eye to eye with the fans in the front rows, across the stage and into the shadows, allowing each band member their time in the spotlight. His whimsical gesturing, which at times borders on comedic, still plays well. After a full 90 minutes capped off by “Aqualung” and a wish for everyone for a safe drive home, Tull returned stage one more time to finish up the evening with “Locomotive Breath” — always a crowd pleaser.

Aside from the fact that time put immovable limits on just how deep either group could go into their vast repertoires, their performances were flawless (that’s subjective) underscored by a top notch P.A. that was nothing short of explosive. this was classic Rock N’ Roll as it was meant to be — no frills, just great musicians putting on an exceptional show.

* Accompanying Anderson were:  Martin Lancelot Barre (guitars, flute); David Goodier (bass); John O’Hara (piano, keys and “that squeezy thing”), Doane Perry (drums and percussion).

Originally posted 2010-06-18 18:00:42.