By Rodrigo Werneck
I was lucky enough to arrive in Europe exactly one day before this gig, on the first day of May. My vacations were just beginning, and what a wonderful way to start them with a concert with one of my favourite guitar players, Mr. Jan Akkerman!
I stayed for the whole weekend at a friend's house, Louis Rentrop, in Bergen Op Zoom, a small town next to the Belgium border. After we woke up on May 2nd, we went to another friend's house, in Krommenie, and there we met more people (all Dutch), to talk about rock'n'roll in general, and drink some Amstel beers.
At 6:00 p.m., we left directly to Rotterdam, and we arrived in the venue at 7:30 p.m. The show was supposed to start at 8:15 p.m. and, different from Brazil, there it usually starts at the right time. That said, Jan Akkerman and band entered the stage at 8:20.
The sound was clear, strong and loud ! All the instruments could be easily heard. The band was exactly the same featured on Akkerman's last live CD, "10,000 Clowns On A Rainy Day": Ton Dijkman on drums, Manuel Hugas on the bass guitar, Nico Brandsen on the keyboards, and of course the superb Mr. Jan Akkerman on the guitars!
The main attraction of the night was B.B. King, so Akkerman only had 50 minutes to play. The Ahoy is a big venue, perhaps for 10,000 people (clowns ? : ), and there were there something like 7,000 people, I suppose... it was a cold night, so Akkerman had the duty of heatening everybody up!
Of course the concert was all instrumental, and Akkerman and band played both his solo, more jazz-rock oriented works, and Focus stuff, more prog-rock oriented works. Songs like "Pedestrians", "Am I Losing You" (great version !!) and "Weedstalker" were superbly played. The band is very good, Dijkman is a well known musician in Holland, since he also plays with a famous pop singer there, but I cannot remember his name right now (my friend Louis told me that). Nico played very well also, and though he didn't have a real Hammond organ there, the sound of his keyboard was pretty convincing.
The sound of Jan Akkerman's guitar was exactly what I was expecting... outstanding !! He plays with so much feeling, and his technique is brilliant. All the members of the band had a short piece of time to play solos, but the main star was Akkerman and his black guitar, which he does not leave even when leaving the stage!
After 40 minutes of music, they left the stage, and after people claiming for an encore, they came back for a 10 minutes medley, ("On The Table"), which included parts of "Sylvia", acclaimed by the fans, who obviously recognized the famous riff...
During the B.B. King concert, I went to the back of the venue, and watched it seated. It was a good concert, but the main reason for me to be there was Akkerman's show. There was a complete "big band" to play with the legendary B.B. King, and it was a very good and show ! B.B. King is really an entertainer, and knows how to deal with the crowd... lots of talking and jokes between the songs, very different from Akkerman's performance, who actually concentrates on his guitar playing.
The best surprise came at the end: Jan Akkerman came back for 2 very long jam sessions with B.B. King and his band ! These 2 jams lasted for more than 30 minutes, and they were great ! Jan Akkerman playing blues... what an unique experience ! The crowd went crazy, and everybody left the Ahoy with a big smile... myself included!
It was midnight, and we still had to go back to Bergen Op Zoom, but we kept talking about the gig, and music in general, so it was a quick trip back home.
I can say it was kind of a dream coming true, since I've never had the opportunity to see Focus or Akkerman playing live before... and I hope to attend to a full concert in the coming future!
Rodrigo Werneck, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, June 19th, 1998
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