Looking at the music of Dutch rock band Focus, started in the late sixties by Thijs Van Leer (b /31/03/48) with Jan Akkerman (b 24/12/46). Van Leer still performs and records under the name today (official site here). Akkerman's site here.




Focus Live 07

The year 1974 was the year of the Hamburger Concerto album and concerts feature that material alongside the older numbers. In April a TV show was recorded for Danish television with Colin Allen (not 1975 as previously stated here). The show includes the ever popular Sylvia, House of the King and Hocus Pocus. They also do an Improvisation in D major and the wonderful No Hang Ups.
In March, Focus did their first tour of Germany. A recording exists of a performance in the Hamburg Musikhalle. It begins with a 21 minute Hamburger Concerto plus other tracks from the album (Strasbourg, Harem and a 14 minute Birth). They finish off with the familiar Hocus Pocus/Sylvia/Hocus Pocus (reprise) sequence. Between comes a jam featuring bits of Focus 2, Focus 3 and Tommy, possibly a regular feature of concerts at the time.
A good recording exists from Monday April 29 from Vereeniging, Nijmegen, Holland. It begins with a 25 minute Hamburger followed by La Cathedrale, Sylvia, a 12 minute Harem and a 14 minute Birth. Finally there is a 10 minute improvisation and House of the King. Oddly, there seems to have been no Hocus Pocus this time round. Perhaps they just ran out of time.
Focus recorded several shows for TV in 1974. One was for Vara Televisie in Holland featuring Hocus Pocus, a Hamburger excerpt and House Of The King. A well known recording exists for BBC 2's In Concert. It begins with an 18 minute Hamburger followed by La Cathedrale and Harem and ends with a Hocus Pocus/Sylvia medley.
Later in the year concerts were televised in America. One on ABC included short versions of Hocus Pocus, No Hang Ups and some improvised material (from the Rainbow?). In October or November the Don Kirshner Rock Concert featured Hocus Pocus, Birth (9:57) and Hamburger (13:51). No Hang Ups was also apparently performed but not recorded.
In May there was a short tour of seven British cities (May 19-27) including two nights at the Rainbow Theatre. The support band was Blue. On Saturday May 25 they played the Bristol Hippodrome and I was there - the one and only time to see Akkerman and Van Leer play together. It was an amazing concert - very loud (massive Bose speakers to the fore) and pretty magical all round.
In the Summer they toured Japan (June) and Australia (July). Later in the year they also performed in Scandinavia. Recordings exist from at least three of the Japanese concerts – one in the Koseinenkin Kaikan, Osaka on Sunday June 2; one in the Koseinenkin Kaikan, Tokyo on Sunday June 30 and one the same month some time in Nagoya.
The concerts begin with the Focus 3/AQQA/Focus 2 sequence (first two missing from the Nagoya recording) followed by Sylvia. Then comes Harem (11:07 Tokyo; 14:03 Osaka; 15:17 Nagoya). Very unusually, in Osaka, Love Remembered comes next. It also features in the Nagoya show where it is preceded by an early version of My Sweetheart on piano and guitar (untitled and apparently composed that afternoon!). The Osaka and Nagoya concerts continue with Tommy then (in Tokyo and Osaka) House of the King, Birth (around 13 minutes), Hamburger Concerto (around 21 minutes) and Hocus Pocus. In Tokyo Tommy comes after Birth. Next in Osaka comes a drum solo and various improvisations (15:20). In Osaka and Tokyo they finish with No Hang Ups and Hocus Pocus (reprise). In Tokyo the jam is more of a Hamburger Concerto thing and lasts around 13 minutes. The Nagoya recording has after Tommy - Birth (13:31), Hamburger (20:43) and Hocus Pocus.
On August 23 they again did the Reading Festival.

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