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Boom Boom Club, Sutton, Surrey 18 March 2007

Focus were always a uniquely gifted outfit, what with their emphasis on instrumentalism, their yodelling keyboard player Thijs van Leer, and a brand of Prog Rock that was always quintessentially European.

And I suspect that for most of the sell out crowd this was a nostalgic trip through happier times for rock music. Indeed I'd venture it was for many the first high profile opportunity to see the band in 30 or more years And it is great to report that no one was disappointed, in fact quite the contrary. While Thijs may have put on some pounds in the intervening years his energy levels still remain as manic as ever, as he wrung out every last nuance from his Hammond, as well as crouching precariously at the front of the stage for some flute shenanigans.


In stark contrast drummer Pierre van Der Linden looks as if preserved in aspect, with his characteristic crouch over the kit, and tasteful percussion work. Guitarist Niels van der Steenhoven quickly proved himself to be an excellent player on the self penned 'Neil's Skin', and on bass player Bobby Jacob's evocative and wryly titled 'Sylvia's Stepson' from the new 'Focus9/New Skin' cd. When required to play Ackerman's licks as on 'Sylvia' and on the magnificent guitar tour de force, 'Tommy', he brought some beautiful tone control, and dexterity to bear on one of the all time great Focus songs.

For the most part, the band still pursue any number of Hammond led major key progressions with Van der Steenhoven 's guitar acting as a perfect foil, but the melodies are so strong, the playing so incisive, and the dynamics effective enough - notably so on 'Focus 3'- for the music to linger in the mind long after the performance.


But perhaps the two most salient memories of the night, other than the thunderous reception at the end, was inevitably van Leer's whipping up a storm on the humorous vocal line of 'Harem Scarem' and the climactic 'Hocus Pocus', complete with audience participation. There was also an unexpected flight from the stage to the bar for a quick shot before rounding off the number with a flourish. Given his bulk he was surprisingly nimble of foot, and he proved throughout a hugely enjoyable set that he still retains a classical/rock based musical proficiency to match his undoubted on stage charisma. A truly great gig.

Review by Pete Feenstra. Photos by Steve Cork

GRTR! Best of 2007

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