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Jethro Tull 40th Anniversary Tour

Posted by bitguru on August 6, 2008

I have intended to attended a Jethro Tull show since the early 80s. I finally got around to it tonight. Tull doesn’t get enough credit, I don’t think, for the influence it has had on rock music.

I used to be a pretty serious Tull fan. I had all of their albums (on vinyl) from This Was (1968) through Broadsword and the Beast (1982) and I could name them chronologically. I collected more obscure Tull releases, such as a 45rpm EP and an Italian “best of” LP with slightly different songs.

They started losing me with Under Wraps (1984) and I became a more casual fan. I wouldn’t run across new Tull albums until months or years after they had been released. When Crest of a Knave (1987) won a Grammy for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance I hadn’t even realized Tull was in the running. (Whether Tull should be categorized as Hard Rock/Metal is debatable. I would generally say no, despite some evidence to the contrary this evening.)

The concert itself was a mixed bag. They stuck with their early works, performing only one tune written after 1976 1978. I think they chose well for the first and last third of the program. The middle third, featuring Farm on the Freeway (1987) and Dharma for One (1968), I was less happy with.

Ian Anderson sounded great on flute and mandolin his tiny acoustic guitar. (He was also good on harmonica for one tune. He didn’t play any violin, saxophone, or synth.) On the other hand, his singing wasn’t so great, though I can hardly fault him for that. That’s what I get for not attending a show twenty years ago.

Martin Barre sounded great on electric guitar. Drums were fine. Keyboards were also fine, if usually buried. An exception was the excellent piano (synth piano, but with pretty decent samples) intro to the Locomotive Breath encore.

That leaves bass, which I had serious problems with. I’m reasonably sure that David Goodier (introduced only as “bassist #7” until the curtain call) was playing it ok, but the lowest notes barely came out. They sounded muddy and lacked attack and definition. This was especially evident in A Song for Jeffrey, A New Day Yesterday, the part of Thick as a Brick that goes into driving 5/4 time, and the slow section in the middle of Aqualung.

I know how the bass lines in those songs are supposed to go, so I could (almost, barely) hear it, but I doubt I could say the same for those in the audience who were less familiar. The bass did sound better when it wasn’t playing on the lowest string. If I had to guess, I’d say that Wolf Trap‘s loudspeakers just couldn’t handle the low frequencies well enough. (The house loudspeakers at least—I wasn’t in a position to hear the lawn loudspeakers. Perhaps they were ok.) It seems odd that this could be the case, but I’m not sure how else to explain it.

Sometimes I would hear a flute even though Anderson was doing something else. Usually it appeared that the synth player was covering it, but occasionally not. Was it on tape or something? A couple of times Goodier covered flute parts on glockenspiel. On Reasons for Waiting, which has multiple simultaneous flutes on the album, most of the flute parts were covered by an on-stage string quartet.

I’m glad I went to the show, but it didn’t quite meet my expectations.

7 Responses to “Jethro Tull 40th Anniversary Tour”

  1. I saw Ian Anderson on Fox Business Channel yesterday. I didn’t know that he was a successful Salmon Farmer. He has sold the business now. He was sadden by the passing of Tony Snow. They were friends and Snow was going to be brought on stage to play with Jethro Tull this week. To bad that did not get to happen.

  2. Joe Shelby said

    Heavy Horses was ’78, so that’s 2 songs post ’76 (or more efficiently, 3 songs post Brick).

    That little tiny guitar-looking thing was actually a guitar, not a mandolin. He used it for any accoustic guitar moment including Thick as a Brick, Aqualung, etc.

    I agree the bass sound in the PA mix was poor, and I’d attribute that to Wolf Trap’s PA itself as well as the restrictions of an outdoor venue (though the smaller Pier Six in Baltimore was never this poor). I don’t go to outdoor shows enough to know if its a problem with other bands on that scale. Yes never had the problem in Nissan, but then again, Squire hangs around the upper strings more than most.

    As for the “middle third”, that’s a matter of taste, I suppose. I liked the surprises in that, and was glad that the line-ups of the 80s including 15-year member Dave Pegg had a chance to be part of the picture show.

    I’m glad I went to the show, but it didn’t quite meet my expectations.

    Better still to not have any.

    My expectations based on following the website was that it would be mostly “first three albums” stuff (and the Brick/Aqualung/Locomotive finisher has been a staple for almost 3 decades now), so when the 70s and 80s stuff came out it was quite the refreshing moment for me. Beyond that, I knew what to expect in terms of approaches since I continue to follow the band’s recent live material and always have.

    Now, the expectation of a decent bass sound in the PA? Yeah, they should have solved this by now…


  3. Chris said

    I saw them 2 nights before in Boston. I was a little leery given the outdoor acoustics of the Bank of America Pavilion, but I thought they sounded great compared to some past shows I’ve seen there (saw the GoGos-Psychedelic Furs a few years ago and couldn’t hear the words).

    Did the Young Dubliners start? They didn’t in Boston, JT came out at 8:20 (for a 7:30 published start time).

    [They did, and they mentioned they missed Boston because they were stuck in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Unfortunately, I wasn’t all that impressed with them. I thought there songs were a bit monotonous. I was expecting something more like Carbon Leaf—not sure why since they’re from Richmond, not Dublin. -ed.]

    We also had a string quartet, which was a throwback to the early 70’s, especially the Warchild tour.

    Given the reports out of the UK, I had half-expected to see a Tull tribute band member onstage as well, but thankfully that didn’t happen.

    See for Ian’s tribute to Tony Snow; apparently Tony played the flute as well and was def going to be onstage at Wolf Trap.

    My only disappointment continues to be that Ian doesn’t play some of the really obscure songs from the 70’s, like “Baker Street Muse” or “Wondr’ng Again”, and others. While some staples like Aqualung and TAAB have to be played, I would love to hear some of the rarities (a cut from APP, gasp!) before Ian hangs it up for good.

  4. dawn said

    I have been a fan of Tull since 1977; I have every ablum before that and up to “Underwraps”, where I too was lost as an ardent fan. I have seen them pretty much everytime that they have come ’round; but was really quite torn about going to this concert. I read somewhere that Ian Anderson had a vocal injury at some point in the ’90’s, and the concert footage that I have viewed seemed to confirm that recently. My youngest son started plying guitar last year, and can ply Aqualung quite well, so I had wanted him to see Tull in concert as well.
    In the end, after watching recent concert footage, I decided not to go; sometimes things are best left as you remember them. I sort of regret not going,but then again, from the reviews that I have read, maybe I don’t; it also would of been hard to try and impart to my son what a tull concert used to be like. Then again, I don’t know if I’d go see Job for a Cowboy with him either…

  5. Charlotte said

    I saw them last Sunday at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. It was my first Tull show (I wasn’t born yet when their first album came out!). I became a fan sort of randomly about 5 years ago and had 4 or 5 albums… that I then lent to a friend who never returned them. Grr. I have 3 other albums now, but by no means have heard all of their music. I couldn’t name all their abums, and I don’t even know when the ones I own were released. But there’s something about the music that I just can’t get enough of. I can definitely see how it’s influenced rock and metal. I love those hard, driving rhythms they break into; feels “metal” but I certainly wouldn’t classify them as metal. (Ian made a joke of that, introducing Heavy Horses, I think, from their “Prog-Rock Heavy Metal album, which I’ll never understand.”)

    I was excited to hear that they’d be playing music from their older albums. But it turned out that I only knew about 5 or 6 songs from their whole set. Nonetheless, I was amazed by what an entertainer Ian still is. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t heard the songs before; it was just as fun to watch him dance around and I could listen to his flute playing all day long. It was his 61st birthday. He teased about Mick Jagger turning 65 then went into Too Old to Rock n Roll, which was pretty funny.

    I was apprehensive about seeing them before I bought my ticket, so I looked up some of their more recent concerts online to see what to expect. (My favorite song is Hunting Girl, so I was looking for that. I was a little sad they didn’t play it, or anything from Songs from the Wood.) In the one or two videos I found, he really didn’t sing, so I was worried that all the songs would be just instrumental. I decided it was worth seeing them anyway, just to experience them live. And when they opened (with a song I don’t know) and he started singing, I was thrilled. Sure his voice isn’t anything like it used to be, but neither is Robert Plant’s. I was glad he made the attempt, and his personality that I love still came through. All in all, I’m really glad I had the chance to see them perform and I’ll go see them again if they continue to tour!

  6. steve said

    I just saw them at the greek theater in LA. Another outdoor venue. The sound was superb, I could hear every instrument flawlessly from the nosebleed seats. Ian’s only really sings through his nose now, but thats understandable considering his age. The fantastic music made up for any shortcomings in the vocals. This was my first Tull show, and I only have a passing familiarity with a few songs. I was blown away by this concert though. Definately one of the best live shows i’ve ever seen.

  7. royce2222 said

    Pls find a rare collabration of Jethro Tull with Anoushka Shankar on youtube,

    In case you wish a copy of the India Tour DVD, pls do get in touch with me at r…@…m

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