Mid-eighties Venue gig gets dusted off...
Once I got over the shock of some cheap gibes in the liner notes, this DVD shows the previously unreleased and somewhat ill-fated Channel 4 film based on Akkerman's performance at the Venue, London in December 1985.
For fans, it does fill in a bit of the video jigsaw and shows what their hero was doing in the mid-eighties but this is padded out with classic, previously seen, footage from the Whistle Test. What is particularly interesting is Akkerman's contemporaneous commentary and tantalising snatches of his lute-playing.
In fact, the eighties was a troublesome time for the Dutchman, both musically and personally, and the gig in 1985 was an attempt to raise his profile in the UK on the back of the release of the album 'Can't Stand Noise'.
The use of synth guitar was pioneering but it does mean that anything synth-driven runs the risk of sounding dated twenty years on.
Fortunately, and typically, the strength of Akkerman's tunes and technique carry the day including 'Heavy Treasure' and the live staple 'Streetwalker'. Hans Waterman (ex-Solution) on drums, Dino Walcott, bass, and Marc van de Geer on keyboards, is arguably one of his strongest band line-ups, too.
There is little evidence that Jan Akkerman was properly feted at this time: from all accounts the gig was a bit of a shambles, and if the guitarist is reluctant to see this surface on DVD it would be perfectly understandable.
Apparently things got off to an ominous start when someone announced Jan as 'Jake Akkerman' and he later recounted to 'Guitarist' magazine '...it was an absolute disaster...half of the equipment was missing and there was no monitor system'.
This appearance led ultimately to a gig with the 'Night of the Guitars' and the 'comeback' album for Miles Copeland in 1990, 'Noise of Art'.
The two bonus tracks, 'Just Because' and 'Pietons', come from a mid-eighties Dutch TV show when Jan was playing his Roland G707 synth-guitar and raise the question...where's the rest of this footage?
The liner note further opines that 'indifferent performances on '10,000 Clowns On A Rainy Day' and 'Passion' saw a decline in the otherwise high standards Akkerman has maintained in the previous decades'. This is of course inaccurate. Most fans regard '10,000 Clowns' as the ultimate live Akkerman album and the acoustic 'Passion' is Jan's own particular favourite. The latter in particular marks a highpoint in an acoustic canon that is reflected, albeit briefly, in the DVD documentary footage.
But these misguided revelations aside, good sound and picture quality make this an important addition to any Akkerman collection.
Review by David Randall
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