Sunday, May 5, 2013
40 Year Itch: Focus Plays The Rainbow Theatre
By 1973, "the Dutch masters of progressive rock", Focus had hit their peak. Sire Records claimed, thanks to the top ten hit single "Hocus Pocus" and the Top 40 albums Moving Waves and Focus 3, "everyone is getting into Focus". Maybe they had a point. In the UK, live shows were greeted with standing ovations. Melody Maker voted Jan Akkerman "Best Guitarist in the World", beating Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page.
On May 5 the Pye Mobile Recording Studio recorded Focus in concert for two nights at London's Rainbow Theatre. The band played no new songs but as Akkerman pointed out to NME:
"Every night is different...it's actually like building a new word or a new language out of the words you know...if people have heard us four or five nights, it's all right. Because they still hear new things."
Fans of "Hocus Pocus" certainly heard something new. The tune begins in a herky jerky style that anticipates Gang of Four before it's played at more than twice its normal speed. Still, 40 years later, I just can't relate to Focus. Too many of their tunes sounds like TV themes to me. Maybe it's my fault.
Released in October, At The Rainbow only peaked at 135 in the US ( 23 in the UK). There would be two more Focus albums ( including 1974's classic Hamburger Concerto) before Akkerman and the boys split up.