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 02

The next group of Focus extant recordings are from 1971, the year that the second album was released. Again they are from Holland. There are two undated recordings from an early and late show in Den Burg on the Isle Of Texel. It is not clear whether this is before or after Bert Ruiter succeeded Cyril Havermans.
The first show features Anonymous 2 (22:35) Eruption (23:20) and finally an Improvisation (5:55). The later show also has versions of Eruption (23:24) and Anonymous 2 (21:58). These are preceded by versions of House Of The King/Janis (4:11) and Focus ( 5:01).
Focus were also heard that year on a documentary about them called Moving Waves and currently available on DVD.
We know that Focus played the Pink Pop Festival in Geleen on May 31 (alongside Brainbox, Fleetwood Mac, etc). They also played alongside others in the Students Union at Utrecht (June 6) and in a festival at Meerlo (July 7).
Havermans had left by September and so by November, Bert Ruiter was well settled in and their concert at Schouwburg, Den Bosch, on November 6, was recorded as was the one on November 12 at Club Zodiac, Amstelveen. The first begins with various Improvisations leading into Focus 1 (28:24). We also have the track that was later to appear on Focus 3 - Answers? Questions! Questions? Answers! (17:20) and Anonymous 2 (22:21) which are also on the second (16:45 and 22:35 respectively), separated by Focus 2 (7:38). The second concert also includes a version of Eruption (24:09) and the sequence that was eventually to feature on At the Rainbow - Hocus Pocus (9:13) Sylvia (4:12) Hocus Pocus Reprise (2:09).

Focus Live 01

Focus must have played many hundreds of concerts as Focus over the years. In most cases, certainly in the early years, recordings of these performances are quite rare. Where there are recordings these sometimes leave a lot to be desired technically and can be difficult to get hold of in some cases. Some of these concerts have been released on CD and DVD, many remain as bootleg items only.
There are three main official live recordings of Focus available - one from the early period (Rainbow) one from the Philp Catherine period (BBC) and one from this more recent period (America). There are also one or two other official live albums such as Live in South America (2002) and early material such as that found on Masters from the vaults and Gold/Greatest Hits or Living Legends. More recently, other official items have appeared.
Perhaps the very earliest extant recording is a good quality one from Saturday April 4, 1970, featuring Van Leer, Akkerman, Dresden and Cleuver. This would be well after the Amsterdam and London recordings of the first album. Two tracks were recorded at 'Studio 7' Club in Amsterdam on that occasion.
One lasts for 10:31. This is a version of Steamin/So What as made famous by Miles Davis. Van Leer is on an upright piano and the feel is very much a jazz one. Focus rarely sound quite as jazzy again but this element does resurface at various points in their later career.
The second track lasts for 17:18. This is Scarborough Fair, a traditional song arranged and made famous by Simon and Garfunkel in 1966 (Paul Simon got the song from Martin Carthy). Versions by The Ventures, Wes Montgomery and Charlie Byrd may have influenced this one. It was featured on the self-titled Brainbox Album of 1969 (with Akkerman on acoustic guitar and Van Der Linden on drums). While still quite jazzy in feel we are much more in Prog Rock territory here. Van Leer plays flute as well as piano.
The lack of audience reaction may suggest this was a run through prior to performing.
We know that focus also played in Breda on April 30 1970 (with Golden Earring and the George Baker Selection), at Terborg on August 6 and on October 31 in Wageningen as part of the Cantil Festival but we are unaware of recordings.