Jan Akkerman UK-Tour


Jan is as focussed and fleet of finger as ever, whilst Neil is the hero of the soundboard and early start...
The rest of the band were in fine form too...

Blessed by wonderful early summer sunshine (a re-run of last July), the Jazzah! Tour kicked off in Tavistock in deepest Devon. Perhaps surprisingly this gig pulled in many fans (and the curious) from the environs, including Plymouth and Exeter where Focus played in the Seventies.
It reminded me a little of last year's opening gig in Southampton - a wonderfully supportive audience and a band really "up for it". However two things made this gig. Firstly, it was the debut of several new pieces that would get better as the tour progressed. Secondly, there were girlies in the audience dancing. At last!!

Of the new pieces, Jazzah! is a majestic opener - based on an insistent funk beat and now beautifully orchestrated by Jeroen's keyboards. Jan's guitar fills and embellishments make this one of his most memorable compositions. Already the national JazzFM station are playing this track and rightly so, it is streets ahead of much "smooth" jazz but shouldn't be confused with that genre.

The set continues with "UEFA Cup" "dedicated to the Turks, after the two English fans were killed". Aside from the title - not all audiences got it first time, especially Tewkesbury where you could hear a pin drop after Jan's measured announcement - this is a tremendous funk groove again characterised by Jan's crystal clear tones picking out the memorable melody before a no-chords-barred serious funk-fest.
  Of the other new pieces, "Summah's Rose" is a beautiful smooth melody which has immediate appeal. The piece "Addled Virgins" could well be a monster "hit" with tremendous crossover potential. Instantly likeable it features one of Jan's beautifully lyrical story-telling guitar lines and bouncy jazz/pop rhythm.

It was a wonderful experience hearing how these pieces developed over several gigs, bearing in mind that the band only rehearsed them for a couple of hours before the Tour.

The other fascinating feature of all these gigs was the older repertoire. The band is so much tighter now, and songs like Pietons, My Pleasure and Mercy Mercy Mercy sound better than ever.

To be truthful, it is very difficult to pick out individual gigs for praise because they were all brilliant and I am incredibly biased. The Chester "residency" (two nights) was the opportunity to hear the band in intimate surroundings. The second night (9 May) stands out for me as one of the finest performances I have ever seen and heard from Jan. The version of "Milestones" as steaming as ever, the pace so relentless that Jan's E-string slipped out of the nut toward the finale. Perfectly disciplined, apparently note-perfect, when he switched to the Les Paul the sound was awesome. My Pleasure, always a fret-fest, was particularly impressive, and "Am I Losing You" left the audience emotionally drained - an incredible rendition very faithful to the album version. Jan and the band played for a full two-and-a-quarter hours. A-may-zing!!

The last "leg" of the Tour from Birmingham to Bromley was notable for great audience feedback and wonderful performances - again. The gig at the Robin Hood perfect, thankfully a little cooler than last time, from the opening chords of Jazzah! to the crowd-requested encore of "Streetwalker" the whole effect was magical.
It was at the soundcheck in Brum that Jan played Anonymus for the first time, running through the chord changes with Jeroen and Willy. He then later incorporated this tune with Blues Route 94. Incredible but true.

It was at the soundcheck in Brum that Jan played Anonymus for the first time, running through the chord changes with Jeroen and Willy. He then later incorporated this tune with Blues Route 94. Incredible but true.

Sound engineer Neil Denholm weighed 17 stone at the start of the UK Tour...

Whether Jan was inspired by his trip to the Rollright Stones I don't know, but at the Southampton soundcheck we got a great version of House Of the King. It is only a matter of time before this classic song crops up at one of Jan's gigs.

Everyone commented at the gigs about the quality of the new pieces and, also, the quality of the live sound. This is a great tribute to Neil Denholm. With good humour throughout, although troubled by a knee injury, Neil ensured that the sound quality remained consistent. Jan's guitar sound, in particular, was magnificent. using his trusty Peavey Transfex 212 (now cut down with two 10 inch speakers) and the Delta Blues amp, you could hear every little detail in his playing. All credit, too, to AER who supplied the PA and monitor speakers.

Whilst it is true that Jan's gigs attract the faithful, those die-hard, dyed-in-the-T-Shirt fans who will come to several gigs in a row, it was also noticeable that this time he is attracting newcomers. This will certainly be the situation with the new pieces which have wider appeal. Plans are already afoot for further gigs later this year and in 2001.