Monday, 12 January 2009

Hocus Pocus

One question I find that I am being asked more and more these days is: ‘Which was your favourite live gig?’ Actually I find this very difficult to answer as my memory of numerous gigs stretching back to 1972 is getting dimmer by the minute (how I wish I’d kept my list of gigs attended to help jog a few reminiscences) and I’m pretty sure there were more than a few great concerts – if only I could remember them all properly in order to give a meaningful answer.

However, the one question I can answer with any certainty is: ‘Which was your most disappointing gig?’ The award for this one goes to Dutch band, Focus and it went like this. I had been a Focus fan since the days of ‘Moving Waves’ when ‘Hocus Pocus’ had burst, yodelling, on to the singles market and had followed them right through the sprawling ‘Focus 3’ and the pseudo-classical ‘Hamburger Concerto’ albums. By this time I had become a lunatic fan of Pierre, Thijs, Bert and in particular, Jan Akkerman and his blisteringly fluid guitar style, so when the 1976 UK tour was announced I, an impoverished student at the time, was first in line to buy tickets for their Reading University Student Union gig.

The weeks leading up to the gig were a frenzy of playing my old Focus vinyl and counting down the days so by the evening in question I was suitably hyped up to enjoy the event to the fullest. The walk across campus to the Union brimmed with anticipation but then disaster! On reaching the entrance, a scrappy piece of paper fluttering from the door met my eyes. It read, ‘Jan Akkerman has left the band. Ticket refunds will be given if required.’ Aaarrgghh!! Who on earth leaves a band on the eve of a sell-out UK tour? Well, Jan Akkerman, obviously. He’d probably remembered that he’d left the iron on. In Holland.

This left me in a state of shock with something the size of a brick weighing in my stomach. What should I do? Get my money back (and probably spend it in the bar) or see the gig? In the end, I decided to go see the gig and it was probably the wrong decision. Jan’s last minute replacement, Philip Catherine, played his guitar parts from sheet music propped up on a chair and the entire set comprised new, unfamiliar material with a half-hearted ‘Hocus Pocus’ tacked on at the very end.

It was an unmitigated let-down for which I had laid out a significant portion of my student grant. So you see, I can remember all this like it was yesterday yet can’t tell you what my favourite gig was due to lack of recall. Funny, that!


TR1-Guy said...

Yes, I had a similar experience in 1987 when I went to see Bachman-Turner Overdrive. That had the previous year released an album of what I thought was great BTO material. I purchased tickets for myself and several friends promising them a "good time" at a BTO concert.

When they took the stage, the only member that I knew was Randy Bachman's brother Tim who was leading three unknown Canadian musicians in very rough covers of old BTO songs. Tim cannot sing or play guitar that well (which is why he was fired from the group after 1 year) and his backing musicians didn't know the material that well. I was really ticked! This was not BTO but was allowed to be called "BTO" as yet again the original group had broken up (didn't take long). Worst concert ever.

But, my best concert was February 7th, 1976. Again, BTO, but this time they had Styx as their opening act, and they had just released "Equinox" and Loreli was making its way up the charts. Styx blew the Chicago crowd away and I thought "Wow, how is BTO gonna top this?" And they did. There were tons of lighting effects, some great jams and above all great music.

My most memorable concert though is seeing George Harrison on his only US tour. It was also my first concert, so it is memorable for sure... I just can't remember what year it was! I think 1974, but ugh, I'm getting old!

Great post!

musicobsessive said...

Aah, the old re-vamp the band but keep the name trick! Doncha just hate it when that happens? I've seen several 'slightly altered' bands in my time and it is just the worst experience ever. It always seems to happen between you buying the tickets and actually seeing the gig.

Oh well, at least I saw the original Fanny!

Thunder From Down Under Tickets said...

Hocus Pocus opens rather flatly with the downtempo trip-pop of the Toko-led "Shave", but then revs up with "The Power of Yawning", a Kinksian guitar-pop romp which collapses into a bizarro, almost Bowie-esque bridge spotlighting a stately Schmersal warble. What's more, the record confounds like this all the way through, with many of its most compelling tracks dumped off near the end.

musicobsessive said...

Hi Thunder. I think you are referring to 'Hocus Pocus' by US band Enon rather than Focus. Nice review nevertheless.