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Gig Reviews...

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Alexanders, Chester 6 October 2004

It will be a sad thing when bands like the reformed Focus quit touring. They are almost performing a public service to an ailing rock community: a hardcore coterie of fans - of a certain age - who remember when prog rock was King.

Thijs van Leer's secret weapon in this second UK tour was unveiled in Chester, some 10 dates in - the return of the great Pierre van der Linden to the drum stool. Guitarist Jan Dumée and bass player Bobby Jacobs should be looking over their shoulder. Who's next?

It was only in the dying stages of this gig that it became apparent why the drummer from the 'classic' 1972/3 line-up is so important. He is a master of his craft and an extended workout during the set-piece 'Hocus Pocus' was magnificent. Van der Linden is a slight, unassuming chap away from the drum riser and says that he cannot forget the early Focus material so he has easily slipped back into the fray, and effectively frozen time.

The gig started casually, apparently Dumée and bassist Bobby were internet surfing at the local cafe. It was only when Jan heard the opening refrains of Van Leer's Hammond that he thought "I recognise that - blimey it's us!!" - and made a mad dash for the Theatre.

The only other hiccup on this showing was the lack of new material, this was almost a re-run of their last tour in May 2003. The band did perform tracks from 'Focus 8' and one new song which perhaps predictably sounded like a heavy metal update of 'Hocus Pocus'. However Jan Dumée revealed to me that the band had several albums' worth of material prepared. It's just a pity this wasn't in evidence tonight.

The early material is performed immaculately and now given greater gravitas with the drummer's return. Guitarist Jan Dumée is a very capable songwriter in his own right (his composition 'Tamara's Move' is always a highlight) and matches Akkerman's dynamics, without question. And, thankfully, Van Leer is back to full form on flute, after a nasty virus infection last year stopped his playing.

Dumée has a very healthy approach to the old material and brings real insight, whilst Van Leer remains the genial showman and a superb instrumentalist often doubling on flute and organ to add appropriate texture to the guitarist's wilder excursions. Much like the old days then.

Whilst it helps if you are a certain age, this should not prevent whipper-snappers heading on down to a Focus gig. There is much to admire. And now with added Van der Linden, there's increased credibility too.

Review: David Randall


1) What are you doing musically at the moment?

In January 2005 I will fly to Rio to release my CD and play several dates to support it.

2) What were your main achievement(s) in 2004?

Playing with Focus all over the world and to share this with those who wanted our music. The release of my solo album.

3) Any disappointments?


4) What were your own favourite albums, films and/or books of 2004 and why?

I listened again to old recordings from the seventies and yes, Jimmy Page and Led Zeppelin - what a band man, what an energy.

5) What are you planning musically in 2005?

Release Focus 9 (Working title) and tour a lot!!

Release my own solo project Rio on the Rocks and tour a lot!

Release another acoustic album. Do some projects in other musical fields, like cuban/jazz, brazilian, jazz-rock. Compose a lot. Live a big part of my time in Brazil.

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