Tag Archives: focus

40. FOCUS (+ THE STEVE EGGS BAND) at the BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton. Friday, 20th March, 2015.

Menno and Thijs watching the support act from the wings! (Photo: PTMQ)

Menno and Thijs of FOCUS, watching the support act from the wings. (Photo: PTMQ)

Anyone who has been reading my Blog since the New Year will soon realise that it has been very much dominated by a variety of Dutch bands of late. First a review of Mariëlla Tirotto’s wonderful new album: Live In Concert (See my Blog #34). Then a review of the excellent debut album by Blueshaker: Handle With Care. (See my Blog #36). Now, I am writing a review of a fantastic gig by – perhaps the most well-known band from The Netherlands – the mighty FOCUS.

One of the most enjoyable gigs I’ve been to in recent years, was Focus at the BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton, back in October 2013 (just a few months before I started my blog).  That was the tour to promote their tenth album – simply entitled Focus X. Of course, when I heard that these Dutch Prog-Rock veterans were due to play the same venue again this year, I jumped at the chance of seeing them in action once more. This time they were also promoting their Golden Oldies compilation album (see my blog #3: ‘Prog-Rock Revisited’). Cousin Charlie got the tickets sorted with promoter PETE FEENSTRA, and we were ready to go.

Now, I first became aware of Focus as a 13 year-old, back in ’73 when the wonderful instrumental ‘Sylvia’ became a hit single in the UK. A school-mate of mine had the live album Focus At The Rainbow  which I liked straight away; and which introduced me to more of their unique sounds. Sometime after that, another mate lent me Moving Waves – again, a good album. And so since those musically formative teenage years back in the 70s, I’ve considered myself to be something of a Focus fan; so I was very much looking forward to the gig.

As regular readers of my Blog will already know, I like the Boom Boom Club; its one of my favourite venues. Its a fair drive from my home in Essex, and crossing the Thames at Dartford on Friday afternoons can be a pain in the arse; so when I go to this venue I normally set off early and stay with Charlie (who lives just ten minutes walk from the club), and take the opportunity to sink one or three pints – a rare pleasure for me these days as I’m usually driving home from gigs completely sober! We arrived at the venue in good time, and said hello to Pete Feenstra and a couple of others that we knew.

THE STEVE EGGS BAND (Photo: PTMQ)

Support act: THE STEVE EGGS BAND (Photo: PTMQ)

First on the bill was the support act, THE STEVE EGGS BAND – who describe themselves as a ‘Country/Rock/pop’ group. They hail from South London; and were founded in 2011. Charlie had seen them before and said they were good. I’d heard the name, but I’d never seen them; so I was interested to find out all about them. They are a four-piece outfit  led by Mr.Eggs himself (lead vocal/rhythm guitar); and ably assisted by JON KERSHAW (lead guitar/vocals); PETE WASS (bass/vocals); and MARK TAYLOR (drums/vocals).

Now I like a bit of Country-Rock and I was looking forward to it.  This band did not disappoint. They began with their Eagles-esque song ‘Going To California’ – I liked the trans-Atlantic lyric about ‘a London boy’ travelling to the USA in this song.  Good start. They then continued their short set of eight original Rock / Country-Rock songs,  which included: ‘Here Comes The Rain’ penned by bassist Pete; ‘Heartbreaker’ from the new album; ‘Good Intentions’ which reminded me of Molly Hatchet; and the rockin’  ‘Roll Over’.  They are obviously influenced by some of the Rock and Country-Rock greats, yet they do have an originality that clearly shines through. I liked them.

As a musical unit, these boys were tight and competent. Steve, equipped with a Gibson acoustic, strummed a steady rhythm throughout, and sang confidently. Lead guitarist Jon, sporting a red Strat, showed himself to be very useful, very early on; and impressed with his wah-wah pedal. Pete played a Hofner bass guitar (don’t often see them), and made very good use of it, I must say. Drummer Mark looked precarious, parked on the edge of the crowded stage; but produced a fine exhibition of the percussive art.  They’re a good band to watch too; quite lively. They look like they thoroughly enjoy playing their music, and appreciate the applause they are awarded at the end of each song. I got hold of a copy of their latest album Hometown Skyline, and may write a review on this Blog soon.

Here is a link to The Steve Eggs Band website:

http://www.steveeggsband.co.uk/

Focus At The Boom Boom Club! (Photo:PTMQ)

Focus At The Rainbow Boom Boom Club! (Photo:PTMQ)

And now to the main event. The last time I saw Focus, as I’ve said, was in October ’13 at this same venue. That occasion was a mid-week gig, and the club was far from full up (we even sat at tables like a trendy music café – unusual for the Boom Boom). This time though, the punters were rammed in from the stage-front to the exit! As soon as the support act had cleared their kit from the stage, the indifatigable Mr.Feenstra was up there introducing the band we’d all come to see – the  inimitable Prog-Rock legends, Focus.

The line-up that climbed on stage to great applause at the Boom Boom Club have been together since 2011. Yet all of them have had a lengthy association with the group over the years. They currently consist of: THIJS VAN LEER (hammond organ, flute, scat-vocals, yodels); MENNO GOOTJES (guitar); BOBBY JACOBS (bass); and PIERRE VAN DER LINDEN (drums). Excellent musicians, all.

Thijs started the proceedings with a majestic flute intro to the first track from their debut album of 1970 Focus Plays Focus – the self-titled piece, ‘Focus’. What better way to begin? Before the cheers had finished the band were straight into their first European hit single: ‘House Of The King’. Their classic piece ‘Eruption’ followed to great approval. Thijs took centre stage during this for a flute solo – and some remarkable scat-singing! This rendition also show-cased Menno’s guitar skills; showing him to be well worthy of standing in JAN AKKERMAN’s shoes!

Hocus Pocus, its Focus! (Photo: PTMQ)

Hocus Pocus, its Focus! (Photo: PTMQ)

After Thijs reminded us that his Mrs was manning the merch desk, they gave us the iconic ‘Sylvia’ – arguably their most popular work – and a fine execution of the piece it was too. From Focus X they then gave us the manic ‘All Hens On Deck’. The apparently seldom played ‘Peace March’ was played next; followed by the beautiful ‘Focus II’.

From the Hamburger Concerto they then played two pieces, including ‘Harem Scarem’ –  which is about the joys and the dangers of alcohol. This was extended into a sequence of remarkable solos by all the band members in turn. Each excelling in his chosen field. Menno was particularly noticeable in this – his Gibson Les Paul being an extension of his mind! Yet all were exceptional.  Then we were plunged into the finale of the show – it was, of course, the iconic ‘Hocus Pocus’.

After the gig, Charlie and I had a brief chat with Thijs, Bobby and Menno. We complemented them on a remarkable performance. ‘We were in good form’  Jacobs said. They certainly were.

Thanks to Pete F and all the hard workers at the Boom Boom for making this gig happen.

PTMQ

31. A REVIEW OF THE YEAR 2014

A couple of my friends have recently asked if I planned to do a review of 2014. I’d like to; but time as always is against me! So I just thought I’d say a few words about the year with respect to my blog. Its been quite a remarkable 11 months since I kicked off with a review of the STRAWBS gig at TOUCHLINE LIVE MUSIC here in Essex. At first, I thought no one would be interested, but I was glad to see that’s not the case. Right from the off, I had quite a few followers. That first Strawbs review has remained one of the most popular too.

I’ve met a lot of helpful and interesting people during the course of the year – not just musicians; but promoters; writers; photographers; or just knowledgeable music lovers.  Some of those musos I have been a fan of since my teens  – MICKY MOODY and MARTIN TURNER to name but two especially. Its also very flattering when some of these musicians have personally invited me to gigs and sent CDs for me to review as well.

Anyway, here are just a few thoughts and facts on my blog’s year….

MOST POPULAR BLOG was #25, MTWA at Touchline Live Music. Second was The Move at the Boom Boom Club (#15). In third place was MTWA again (blog #5); and fourth. The Micky Moody Band at Coolham (#23). I’m glad to say that these entries are still attracting new readers through search engines too.

BEST ROCK ALBUM must go to VIRGIL AND THE ACCELERATORS for their superb second studio album Army Of Three. It was very flattering to be put on the Guest List by Virgil, and to meet and interview the band before their gig at the Touchline. (Blog #26). Looking forward to seeing what VATA will be up to in the new year.

BEST ROCK GIG for me was a difficult choice. I saw fabulous performances from THE MOVE; VATA;  and the THE STRAWBS. But I’d say MTWA at The Touchline just wins by a whisker (Blog #25). Nice of Martin Turner to agree to an interview beforehand too. This coming year, so far, I plan to see FOCUS and the PINK FAIRIES.

BEST BLUES-ROCK ALBUM. Difficult! Could be LARRY MILLER’s Soldier Of The Line;  BERNIE MARSDEN’s Shine; or  LAURENCE JONES’ Temptation; but I’d choose DEBORAH BONHAM’s Spirit I think. I was hoping for an interview with her too, but she unfortunately had to cancel her gig at the Touchline due to a chest infection.

BEST BLUES ALBUM: I enjoyed JAMES ANTHONY’s Some People Get It, which he sent from Canada for me to review. (Blog #24); and MILTON ‘n’ FARROW’s Skiffleodeon – also given to me by the band to review (Blog #22). RUBY TIGER’s Vistas was excellent as was MATT ANDERSEN’s Coal Mining Blues; but I took a shine to DANA GILLESPIE’s Cat’s Meow the most.

BEST BLUES GIG is another tough choice. Great shows by COCO MONTOYA (Blog #14); MICKY MOODY BAND (Blog #23); and RUBY AND THE REVELATORS (Blog #16); but the best for me, was the very special show put on for the BOOM BOOM CLUB’s 1,000th gig; which included superb performances from OTIS GRAND; ALAN DARBY; LAURENCE JONES and THE VOODOO SHEIKHS among others (Blog #30). In 2015 I’d like to see RED BUTLER and LARRY MILLER if I can.

BEST FOLK GIG  I attended during the year was OXJAM MUSIC FESTIVAL in Exeter. A great selection of West Country folk acts in one afternoon. I was invited by my good friends in DEVONBIRD who played a wonderful little set – as did every artist present. (Blog entry #28).

BEST FOLK ALBUM in my opinion was ANGE HARDY’s The Lament Of The Black Sheep. I’m hoping to review soon (see Blog #32).  Also in 2014, I heard ADRIAN NATION’s second album Fall Or Fly, which is excellent. As for 2015, I’m looking forward to the second DEVONBIRD album which should be released in the spring – they are recording as I write. For info on Devonbird, see Blog #4.

DOWNSIDES. I had a couple of negative comments made to me during the course of the year – one due to a misreading of my blog; and one due to a certain curmudgeonly singer-songwriter who wrote unpleasant and untrue things about me – even after I gave him a good review!  I never intend to cause offence – in fact, I’ve been criticised for liking everything! Well, I do seem to! (I suppose if I didn’t like something, I wouldn’t write about it). Anyway, the vast majority of those I’ve written about; and my readers too, have been very complimentary and supportive indeed; so I didn’t loose any kip over it!

REGRETS: ‘…..I have few, but then again, too few to mention’! These surround missed gigs. I was particularly peeved at missing LARRY MILLER; and TERRY REID because I couldn’t get time off work; and DEBORAH BONHAM’s gig at the Touchline was cancelled (as I said above) due to the fact that the poor lady had a chest infection.  I hope she’s well now and will play there soon.

FUTURE PROJECTS include a review of Ange Hardy’s Black Sheep album; an article on my friend, the song-writer TONY PARTIS; and continuing to go and see as many and as varied gigs as possible. I also plan to get into the studio myself to try to record some of my own songs (for what they’re worth!). And I shall continue to support and promote my friends’ projects too.

A SAD FAREWELL to those musicians who sadly passed away in 2014:  JOHNNY WINTER (See my blog #17); JACK BRUCE; JOE COCKER; PHIL EVERLY; ACKER BILK; PETE SEEGER; BOBBY WOMACK; TOMMY RAMONE; ALVIN STARDUST; and LYNSEY DE PAUL. These luminaries will be sadly missed; but leave us a fine legacy in their work which their fans will cherish for all time. R.I.P. (My apologies if I’ve forgotten anyone).

THANKS to all those who have supported; encouraged; offered constructive criticism; advice; photos; and other pics; and generally taken the time to read my blog. Those people are too numerous to mention but they know who they are; so thank you one and all! Here’s looking forward to more of the same in 2015.

HAPPY NEW YEAR! PTMQ

3. CLASSIC PROG-ROCK REVISITED!

FOCUS at THE BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton. October 2013 (Photo by PTMQ)

FOCUS at THE BOOM BOOM CLUB, Sutton. October 2013 (Photo by PTMQ)

My friends in the Dutch progressive rock band FOCUS have recently announced that they are to release an album of re-recorded classic tracks, entitled ‘Golden Oldies’. The band currently consists of two original members (Thijs Van Leer & Pierre van der Linden) + two new boys (Menno Gootjes & Bobby Jacobs). The band have been concerned that some of their die-hard fans will not take to these new recordings – some will undoubtedly say ‘What’s the point?’ I can understand that view to some extent – after all; can you improve upon perfection? And why would you want to? But there is a point: And the point is that the current band perform the classic pieces such as ‘Hocus Pocus’; ‘Sylvia’; and ‘House of the King’ live on stage to this day; so all they are doing is putting on record, that which we all love to hear at gigs anyway. It will be interesting to see how different these new studio recordings are compared to the originals; as it is not only the personnel that has changed in the last 40 years, but there has also been a revolution in instrumentation and recording technology. The band may have decided to change parts here and there too; so it will be interesting to see how the music has evolved over the years, with the input of Gootjes and Jacobs no doubt having a great bearing on this. I don’t think its a question of trying to improve on the originals; but of measuring the evolution of the band’s work. We will still have the original recordings to fall back to if the new album turns out to be a bummer! But it won’t – it’ll be another Focus classic!

Its nothing new to re-record classic albums anyway. Recently, CAMEL released a re-recorded version of their classic 1975 album ‘The Snow Goose’ – and a damn fine job they’ve done too. MARTIN TURNER’s WISHBONE ASH have also re-recorded the iconic 1972 album ‘Argus’. Again, a brilliant job. Comparisons with the originals are inevitable, but in both these cases the new albums are at least as good as their forebears in my opinion. Focus’ new offering will be too. So all we need now is for RICK WAKEMAN to get down the studio for a new version of ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’; and MIKE OLDFIELD to get the ‘Tubular Bells’ out again, and we’ll be right back in the prog-rock Heaven that was the early ’70s!

PS: ‘Hocus Pocus’ (presumably the old version) is to feature in the new ROBOCOP film!

VEEL SUCCES MET HET NIEUWE ALBUM, FOCUS! Phil The Music Quill