Focus. I’d only knowingly heard two of their pieces ever before (Synvia, of course, and Hocus Pocus complete with its excellent yodelling!), but when my mates’ fledgling prog-rock band Merchants Vice (now sadly disbanded) got a slot opening for Focus, I came along for the show, not really knowing what to expect.
This particular line-up of Focus was Thijs van Leer on keyboards, Bobby Jacobs on bass, guitarist Jan Dumée, and drummer Bert Smaak, the line-up who recorded Focus 8.
After getting all of Merchants Vice’s gear unloaded and set up on stage and sound-checked, there was a knock at the stage door. An unmarked van was sitting there, and a wheezing old gentleman was at the door asking for a hand unloading the van – nothing better to do I helped him but it wasn’t until spotting the Hammond organ nestling within that I realised I was helping Thijs himself!
Unfortunately I do not have the set-list, and not being a big fan at the time I don’t know exactly which songs they did play, although they did obviously play Hocus Pocus (Thijs sadly unable to reach the high yodel notes, but Bobby was more than able – very impressive!) and Sylvia, which they also played as an encore.
Ah, the encore! Part way through it, the entire lighting went dark and the band carried on completely uninterrupted, showing off their virtuosity until the lights returned for the end. Impressive, but even more so when we discovered it wasn’t planned; the lighting system had blown at the time, and the band just carried on regardless whilst the lighting engineer and the house manager were frantically trying to fix whatever had just broken!