In today’s music, making a clear, memorable statement, whether it be a move, riff, solo, is really part of the artists claim to their piece of the pie. It also seems like every musical genre has a signature pose that defines it. Early rock ‘n’ roll will always be summed up by Elvis Presley’s crooked knees in Jailhouse Rock. Disco will be remembered for John Travolta pointing skywards in his white suit. And ‘prog rock’ will forever be associated with Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson standing on one leg while playing the flute, his lustrous locks floating about him.
If the pose sounds eccentric, then so was prog rock. The genre introduced complex chord changes and jazz and classical elements to late Sixties rock. Lyrics often dealt in myth and legend, along with wind instruments abounded. Jethro Tull were kings of the scene, despite myriad line-up changes. They sold 60 million albums, had number ones across the globe and, in more recent decades, even beat Metallica to a Grammy.
Playing the near capacity State Theater in Minneapolis as part of the North America Tour to mark their 50th anniversary, the group provided a largely successful example of how to ‘do’ nostalgia in a modern concert setting. Amazing archive footage was mixed with superb musicianship and engaging storytelling from front man Ian Anderson. As singer, flautist and the band’s only original member, the night was effectively all his. Anderson’s vocials and showmanship were solid through the performance and response from the crowd was overwhelming.
With no opening act, the lights dimmed and show began promptly at 8pm. As the band took the stage, it didn’t take long for Anderson to appear with flute raised as he twisted and leapt about the stage. This was very impressive, not only due to the fact that Anderson is 71 but he seems to have maintained his stage presence over the decades. Minutes into the first song, the crowd roared as pulled off his signature ‘pose’.
Throughout the show, there were ‘surprise virtual guests’ making video introductions to the songs. Guests included some of the 32 former Jethro Tull members such as Tony Iommi from Black Sabbath and original guitarist Mick Abrahams, who left to form the wonderfully-named Blodwyn Pig. Celebrity fans such as Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris also provided a great grounding on the upcoming song. Anderson evening a lot of wit and humor to round out the song introduction.
Just before the intermission, two songs, My God and Thick as a Brick, drew huge responses from the crowd. Anderson explained how My God got him into a bit of trouble in the southern states as there were ‘religious concerns’. With many of the fan favorites echoing throughout the performance, it was great to see the setlist span 50 years of solid hits, along with some songs that have been rarely played live. In all, the show proved that Jethro Tull continues to carry on a unique tradition and sound.