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Focus – Band On The Wall, Manchester: Live Review

Another 50th Year celebration tour hits the road and this one with two of the four original members must rank as one of the best.

Charismatic leader Thijs Van Leer and accomplished drummer Per van der Linden are accompanied by Menno Goodjes on guitar, and strapping on a six-string bass, Udo Pannekeet.

This concert at the Band on the Wall gave an intimate rendering of all the Focus favourites to please their loyal followers.

Early in the set, their hit record House of the King roused the audience even though it wasn’t a hit on these shores. I still remember my first hearing of this tune and thought it was Jethro Tull, (sorry Thijs), but like many others, it set us off into being a lifelong fan of the unique sound of Focus.

A fifteen-minute version of Eruption ensued. Glowing guitar work, a fiery flute solo followed by a scat solo with some audience participation led us into a short drum solo which warmed everybody up for treats coming later.

The tranquil guitar-based piece, Focus 7, was followed by a funky intro that concealed a lead into Sylvia. This completed the first hour-long set that was so entertaining I couldn’t believe an hour had passed!

Who’s Calling, from their second album, was a lively opening to the 2nd set. It was swiftly followed by a more recently composed piece Focus 11; never a daredevil with their song titles but a sublime piece nevertheless.

Then one of the many highlights was Song for Ava that combined funky flute and guitar which in turn began All Hens on Deck with some fabulous pacy riff sharing and some brilliant guitar which was as heavy metal as you could get.

Focus music always gives you surprises; changes in pace, dynamics and instruments and another surprise was in store with Per’s drumming driving a tango rhythm on Birds come flying Over (Le Tango). Whilst Menno exchanged guitars Thijs offered us some Mozart but before he could begin he returned and erupted into the ever-popular Focus 2.

During Harem Scarem, so much was incorporated into the 15 minutes or so showing their versatility; sometimes poppy and disco then more heavy guitar thrown into the mayhem. A psychedelic ending, a brief guitar solo that was almost Zeppelin like, then a dreamy bass solo in which every use was made of the 6 string bass, a flute with Bachian tones and then an electronic choir effect.

To complete the main set a new arrangement of Hocus Pocus was aired, which was as driven and powerful as the original including an extended drum solo, which was incredible not just in its awesome expertly delivered manner but that it was played by a fellow in his 70’s; a younger man could do no better!

Without leaving the stage the acclaimed groups favourite, Focus 3, sent everyone home happy and wondering why they can not fill larger venues. Their exquisite performance deserved it.

Focus: Official Website / Facebook / Twitter

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