Thijs Van Leer - vocals, keyboards, flute; Jan Akkerman - guitar; Bert Ruiter - bass; Pierre van der Linden - drums
Founded in 1969 by the classically educated keyboard and flute player, Thijs Van Leer, and the extraordinary guitarist Jan Akkerman, Focus would soon become one of the most extraordinary bands to ever emerge from the Netherlands. The initial lineup of the band released their debut album, In And Out Of Focus the following year, featuring original material and began establishing themselves as exciting performers throughout Europe. Despite the fact that the group played predominantly instrumental music and none of the band members spoke English, they broke big in the United States in 1971 with the release of their second album, Moving Waves which featured a new more powerful rhythm section and the song that will, for better or worse, forever define the group, "Hocus Pocus." Based on an infectious recurring guitar riff from Akkerman and featuring high-energy interludes of alto flute, accordion, and drum breaks, this song also featured nonsensical vocals comprised of falsetto singing, whistling, orgasmic groans, and surprisingly enough, yodeling interludes. Edited down from the album version into a significantly shorter single, this highly unusual track would bring the band international acclaim, becoming a huge hit on both sides of the Atlantic, and remains a staple of classic rock radio to the present day.
This King Biscuit Flower Hour set was recorded on the group's 1973 North American Tour, opening for Joe Walsh's first post-James Gang project, Barnstorm. This is Focus captured early on, performing some of the strongest material from the Moving Waves album to a very receptive audience on the University of Texas campus in Arlington.
The set begins with a full-blown version of "Hocus Pocus" that engages this audience from the get-go. Akkerman's metallic riffing, Van Leer's highly adventurous keyboard and vocal work and a pummeling rhythm section combine to create a unique musical hybrid unlike any other group of the era.
However, the true centerpiece of this set is the "Moving Waves" track "Eruption." Like its title implies, this is an explosive composition that incorporates elements of rock, jazz, traditional European folk, and classical music. This is Focus at their best, creating an original form of progressive jazz-rock fusion. Featuring a high degree of spontaneous improvisation and fiery proto-heavy metal elements from Akkerman, this is a highly diverse excursion that features monumental jamming from all concerned. Although they begin midway through the composition, over the course of its nearly 14-minute length, Focus constantly introduces musical surprises. The recurring theme in this piece recalls traditional European folk music played on electric instruments, but unlike groups like Fairport Convention, who also experimented with these elements with great success, Focus has a much more aggressive heavy rock approach to their form of fusion. This highly adventurous piece contains impressive guitar and keyboard work, and also features a frantic flute solo. Beginning classical in nature and gradually becoming more and more esoteric, Van Leer introduces wild vocal improvisations into the mix, before he veers off into a very unusual conclusion of falsetto singing and organ. The much more concise final piece of the set, "House Of The King," draws comparisons to Jethro Tull's driving flute dominated rockers before it sails off into a manic reprise of "Hocus Pocus" to conclude the set.