Seminal Dutch progressive rock outfit Focus receives a warm welcome at the Sage Gateshead on a wet and windy Thursday evening.
Focus recently released their impressive new studio album Focus 11, and subsequently, the group are currently out on tour in support of their latest release.
The large yet intimate Hall 2 at the Sage Gateshead is the perfect setting for tonight’s show. With two tiers of balcony surrounding the stage 360 degrees, it gives the band the feeling that the crowd is almost on top of them, as they peer over the railings from above.
As Thijs van Leer assumes his position behind his trusty Hammond, the band kicks off the proceedings with “Focus 1” before embarking on a majestic rendition of the classic “House of the King” and their epic 23-minute instrumental suite “Eruption” from their 1971 sophomore album.
Early in the show, the group showcase the first of two new songs from their latest offering with the title track itself. The song features emotive guitar playing from virtuoso Menno Gootjes, which in turn is harmonised with Udo Pannekeet’s six-string bass licks and intricate drum parts from Pierre van der Linden. The aforementioned adds some amazing textures to the number with the aid of wire steel brushes.
The beauty of Focus is that they aren’t in the habit of chasing trends and by doing so they still sound as fresh as they did in the 70s, despite the fact that some of the tracks featured this evening are in excess of 40 years old. The result of which is that this seminal prog-rock outfit has produced many songs that are truly timeless – one example of which being “Sylvie”. With it’s unmistakable Hammond licks, and infectious melody, the band’s anthemic number certainly hits the spot mid-set.
A pair of songs from the band’s 1974 Hamburger Concerto are highlights of the evening during the second half of the show. This includes their somewhat atmospheric composition “La Cathedrale de Strasbourg” which almost feels as though it could be the soundtrack to a John Carpenter movie along with the epic “Harem Scarem”, which in turn picks up the pace as the band hurtle towards the finish line. During the latter of which, each member of this incredibly talented four-piece to takes their moment in the spotlight during individual solo feature spots.
Focus close out their career-spanning setlist with a thunderous airing of “Hocus Pocus”. The end result is a standing ovation from the Tyneside faithful.
Today may well be Thanksgiving in the US, but tonight the North East rock fraternity are thankful for the musical feast expertly prepared and delivered by Focus.
Event Date: 22-Nov-2018