Jan Akkerman – The Duchess, 05/04/09

Monday 5th April: What’s this? Another trip to the Duchess? That’s three in four days!!!

Tonight’s first act is Geoff “Hurricane” Watson, a local(ish) singer/songwriter and man-with-a-guitar. His website says “high energy, deep reaching songs on a bedrock of driving original guitar work” and his live performance doesn’t make a lie out of that statement. All but one of the songs were self-written, the only cover being the Stones’ Paint It Black. Geoff plays the guitar with gusto, almost as though he’s possessed, and it’s easy to understand why parts of it show a high degree of wear and tear. The man himself, by the end of the set , was more than a little damp in the forehead area, after putting heart and soul into his performance. An entertaining and, I believe (from Roj’s comments), technically excellent opening act.

We were really here, though, for Jan Akkerman, Dutch guitarist and former member of 70’s (although still going strong) prog-rock group Focus. And I could have told you none of that a few weeks ago… A work-colleague, seeing me checking out the Duchess’s What’s On list almost jumped out of his chair when he saw Mr Akkerman was playing. “You’ve got to see him. He’s brilliant!” he said and launched into one of his potted histories of groups that he knows I would like.

In this case, though, I can vaguely remember having a copy of Moving Waves, Focus’ seminal 1971 album, on tape back when I was at school. I seem to think that a classmate had either given it to me or lent it to me because he didn’t like the yodelling. That’s all I can remember, though. Focus as a band had slipped from my musical memory some time ago.

But never one to pass on prog rock, I duly bought a ticket, on spec, for tonight’s gig. And am I glad I did??

Back in the days when I started getting into music, the band members were quite a bit older than me. Obviously, after all I was about 14. Nowadays, the bands I tend to see all seem to be half as old as me. Tonight was different. Jan is 62, nearly half as old again as me, but has obviously kept himself in shape and has lost none of his dexterity, playing some tremendous tunes.

Only two tracks rang any bells with me – one was Hocus Pocus, from the Making Waves album (which, again, only vaguely rang any bells and maybe only because it had lodged itself in my subconscious so long ago). The other was the encore, Paul Weller’s You Do Something To Me, which both Roj and I had, bizarrely, mistaken for a Clapton song. The rest were intricate, soaring, instrumental tracks with a distinct lack of vocals. Indeed Jan himself barely spoke throughout the whole two-hour set, making this one of the best value gigs (music-wise) I’ve ever been to. It’s often said of good guitarists that they can make their guitars talk. I’ve often wondered why that makes them so good – surely it would be more impressive if they could make them sing. Jan certainly managed that.

The rest of the band were excellent as well. Coen Molenaar’s relaxed air on keyboards belied the type of stuff he was playing, Wilbrand Meischke on bass guitar provided a solid base for the act and Marijn van den Berg played the drums like a demon, including possibly the best solo you are ever likely to see on just four drums and (I think) five cymbals…

Overall, an excellent evening and an early contender best original gig of the year.

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About Ian

Regular gig-goer in York, both to see local and touring bands. Huge music fan, with more CDs than my wife thinks any one person should own. I also collect American comics, read a lot of SF and fantasy and am a season-ticket holder at Leeds United.
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