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"!!
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
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
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."