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 09

In February 1976 Jan Akkerman finally left the band. A 33 date tour of the UK and Ireland had already been agreed and could not be cancelled so Belgian jazz guitarist Philip Catherine was drafted in. The first date (February 20) was in the Cardiff University Student Union. I remember being present on that rather disappointing occasion. The band was forced to perform a relatively brief set of unfamiliar material that included Catherine's own Sneezing Bull. When pressed for an encore they could only repeat one of the previous numbers.
As the tour progressed it was possible to add Hocus Pocus and one or two other familiar things to the set list. The tour ended on March 29 and included near the end (recorded March 17, broadcast March 21 by the BBC) the concert at The New Victoria Theatre, London. This concert appeared on CD many years later. At this time they also did Maximum and Sneezing Bull on the The Old Grey Whistle Test. The concert in Southport is also around but is of poor quality.
Things then go very quiet as far as Focus is concerned for nearly a decade. In 1985 there were at least four reunion concerts in Holland, including one recorded in Utrecht on May 21 where, with Mario ArgandoƱa and Tato Gomez, Akkerman and Van Leer play the material found on the album of that year among other things. The set list reads - Who Is Who? (14:56) King Kong (4:02) a reggae-style House Of The King (8:51) Le Tango (6:20) Tommy (11:15) Russian Roulette (8:34) Sylvia (4:53) Streetwalker (14:05) Beethoven's Revenge (13:12) Indian Summer (8:44) Song For The Open Road (12:29) and Just Like A Star (5:31). Previous to this Akkerman had guested at a Pedal Point concert at De Brakke Grond in Amsterdam (April 4) where the Dona Nobis Pacum material was played along with a version of Akkerman's Central Station (Centralus Stationium!)
There is then another shorter gap until 1990 and the concert for Radio Veronica's Goud Van Oud in Apeldoorn, available in audio and video formats. On that occasion the classic line up of Akkerman, Van Leer, Van Der Linden and Ruiter tackled Focus 3, Focus 2, House of the King, Sylvia, Tommy and Hocus Pocus.
The very last time that Akkerman and Van Leer appeared together was in 1993 on July 10 when they shared the stage at The North Sea Jazz Festival. The set list at that time included Focus 3 (6:17) Pietons/Hocus Pocus (10:18) Puccini's Cafe (7:22) Streetwalker (8:56) My Pleasure (14:03) Fool For Your Stockings (10:55) Crackers (8:04) House of the King (2:23) Hocus Pocus (reprise) (0:55) Flute Solo (2:13) Focus 2 (4:09) Burger's Blues (4:24). Akkerman and Van Leer were joined by Ton Dijkman (Drums) Lesley Joseph (Bass) and Willem Swikker (Keyboards).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I was only telling the story of the Cardiff concert to my family the other day. I remember it being a complete disaster