Jan Akkerman UK-Tour


Photos by Clive Woodley and Graham Crawford [Jan and the band in Tewkesbury,
10.5.00 Photo by Clive Woodley]

There is always a great sense of adventure and expectation at the start of a tour and it was with some relief that - soon after arrival in Tavistock - we spotted sound-man Neil Denholm's trusty van. The Tavistock gig was something of a surprise, it certainly brought out many who remembered Jan from days of old. Perhaps the posters had something to do with it, placing great emphasis on "Jan Akkerman's Focus". Aaaaagh!! With some confusion early on about a support band, Tim Baugh was assigned MC duties and in best MC tradition announced the gig as in "Tewkesbury"!!

From Tewkesbury (sorry Tavistock) it was on to Chester for what has become the "two gig residency". Chester is a fine walled Roman city with a great atmosphere and, with venue owner Pauline Thompson a convert to Jan and his music, there is a sense of "coming home". They also do a good pint of Directors Bitter. There is a good guitar shop nearby which gives us the opportunity to purchase some strap locks for the L5 and some guitar picks. The controls on the Les Paul are getting a bit wobbly so super-glue is purchased and held in readiness for the remainder of the tour. It was here that Jeroen drove a hard bargain, and ended up with a harmonica.

The second Chester gig was incredible. In the words of CD sleeve designer Alan Jones "Jan really went for it." One feature of this tour was the consistently good sound. All credit must go to Neil, who worked tirelessly to ensure that everything went well . Jan was once again using his Peavey Transfex, and the sound from the Les Paul (in particular) was superb. For the jazzier pieces the L5 with its beautiful clear tone was perfect.

Interestingly, Willy commented after the first Chester gig that "it was something special". I asked him to expand on this. "Sometimes there are things happening musically where it all fits into place, that was happening tonight. I don't think I've seen Jan play better." By the way, Willy's double-bass provided great visual interest and it sounded great!!


Neil worked especially hard at Tewkesbury, the venue a 300-seater hall, and again the sound was brilliant. There was a sense of anticipation at this gig, not least amongst the theatre staff who had been overdosing on the Live At Alexanders CD. The lady on the door said she fancied Jan, even before she'd heard the music! The audience, it has to be said, took a little bit more winning over. Perhaps more used to formal plays and other arty events, some of Jan's quips missed their mark. It was only in the second half that the atmosphere loosened, Jan effectively broke the ice with some great humour. I am sure if he hadn't been a magnificent guitarist he would have made a very good stand-up comedian.
Unfortunately, there was a certain amount of zig-zagging in terms of travel, the next gig was a five hour drive to the North East. Jan and the band played "The Dome" Whitley Bay in November 1999. However all I remember from our second visit is the cold wind, the actual gig (which was fine), but the poor local promotion which I think accounted for the small audience.

The lady on the door said she fancied Jan, even before she'd heard the music!

Photo by Graham Crawford

Photo by Graham Crawford

It got warmer again as we travelled south to Birmingham. The Robin Hood is a great gig and Jan got arguably the best response here. Unfortunately, the tour manager's sense of direction went A.W.O.L. at this point and resulted in a late arrival at the gig. This is always a possibility, especially when the place looks different in darkness and it has to be said that Merry Hill in Birmingham to the uninitiated is a concrete nightmare (Merry Hell). That's my excuse. Sorry.
At the soundcheck earlier, Jan incredibly had run through "Anonymus" shouting out the chord changes to Jeroen and Willy. This was later incorporated in the set with Blues Route 94 and brought a smile to many. Jan was playing with the fire and good humour that's always characterised his.


Photo by Clive Woodley

From Birmingham, the trip to Southampton gave Jan the opportunity to explore some old stomping grounds close to where - in May 1973 - he recorded at Chipping Norton. Arriving at The Brook, was again familiar territory. This is a great venue, well run and a good audience. Bryn "The Bollocks" Lewis is not one to mince words and confided "This is the best act we've ever had." With no restriction on time, Jan and the band played until quarter to one (after a ten o'clock start). After a drinking session post-gig, I failed to find the accelerater pedal on Jan's car in an effort to drive him back to the Hotel. This led to the bizarre situation of Jan stomping around the car at about four in the morning thinking that all the tyres had been shot up!! Also, Jan had his hat pulled down almost over his ears which was hilarious. I hasten to add I was not "over-the-limit" which makes my actions rather inexplicable: I think it was just extreme tiredness.

Bryn "The Bollocks" Lewis is not one to mince words and confided
"This is the best act we've ever had"

Photo by Clive Woodley

The final gig of the Tour was promoter Don Mackay's home venue, Delano in Bromley. From the outside the place looks like a hooker joint, but Don hires it on a couple of Sundays a month for rock gigs (or at least that's what he tells us). The crowd was again supportive, and appreciative. Don was pleased with the turn-out especially as there is something of a north-south divide in London, with punters in the north not willing to travel to the south and vice versa. Jan looked very relaxed during this performance, the new pieces in particular were magnificent.
With Jan playing Anonymus and baying to play House Of the King, there was an awful lot here to please, or appease, the fans of old.

I have to say it is wonderful witnessing at first hand the subtleties of each gig which can only be appreciated when seen in the context of a tour. What appears a great gig to the audience may not necessarily be a great gig for the players and vice versa. There is always so much going on, especially in Jan's own playing. The wonderful thing about these gigs was that Jan was incredibly disciplined in his playing, more so I think than usual. We had perfect-as-the-CD renditions of several songs (especially 'Am I Losing You'), whilst the new pieces improved like new wine with each tasting. It must have been extremely satisfying for Jan to debut the new pieces and receive such a great response. It was marvellous watching the progress of the pieces throughout the tour and witness how they got better and better! With Jan playing Anonymus and baying to play House Of the King, there was an awful lot here to please, or appease, the fans of old.

So there you have it, a marvellous tour and again all credit to all those involved. In particular, Neil was a star. Unassuming and remarkably jovial, he always explained the "mechanics" of the sound set up in an easy-to-understand-never-condescending way. It was a great education! Thanks to Marian for the organisation across the border. Thanks in particular to Paul (sales and transport), Clive and Graham (photos) and Jim (T-Shirt). Jim from Scotland took some friendly ribbing from Jan after the Newcastle gig and was last seen in the menswear department of C & A pondering over a three for one special offer. I know Jan really likes to see the familiar faces (the hardcore Akkernutters) and whether he is preached to by Gary, lambasted by a budding guitar hero from Newcastle (who thought Jan was "still" a good guitar player), or pounced upon to sign the "n"th copy of "Moving Waves" he takes it all in good humour. As he says, "this is part of my history."