Gig Review: Ian Anderson presents Jethro Tull – 50th Anniversary Tour, 10.12.2018

Blog, Gig Review

»In the shuffling madness«

50 years have passed since the founding of Jethro Tull. In the course of his »Ian Anderson presents Jethro Tull – 50th Anniversary Tour« the famous frontman paid Vienna a prestigious jubilee visit.

It is 8 pm in the well-filled hall F of the Wiener Stadthalle. Most of the visitors have taken their seats. A huge screen is installed on the spacious stage, onto which several smaller retro TV-screens are being projected, with each of them showing different Jethro Tull live footage. In the background, the music of this legendary band is already audible. At 8:07 pm, Florian Opahle (guitar), John O’Hara (keys, vocals), David Goodier (bass, vocals), Scott Hammond (drums), and finally Ian Anderson (flute, guitar, harmonica, vocals) step onto the playing field.

»The train, it won’t stop going«

After a prompt start consisting of »My Sunday Feeling« and »Love Story«, Anderson greets his audience: »Thank you very much indeed, good evening and hello – welcome to fifty years of Jethro Tull!« he says, before shortly telling about the bands initiation back in the year of 1968, which manifested with their first gig at London’s Marquee Club. The band leader explains that instead of an ordinary band, Jethro Tull is rather a collective that holds over thirty musicians who came and went over time. Each of tonight’s songs has been chosen carefully and is either dedicated to or requested by one specific person. Thus, before the start of each new song, Anderson tells an anecdote, which is then followed by a video clip, showing another person announcing the upcoming tune every time. First, we see Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, who, back in the day, left the band to become a painter. He, of course, requests »Songs for Jeffrey«, just one of many songs from the »Aqualung« album that are going to be part of tonight’s setlist. Unfortunately, Anderson’s vocals are not as sharp and powerful as one might have hoped for, the instrumental side, however, is spot on from all parties involved.

The first half of the show takes the listeners from »Some Day the Sun Won’t Shine for You« and »Dharma for One« to »A New Day Yesterday« (announced in the video clip by Joe Bonamassa), whereby each piece is accompanied by exciting visuals and light effects. And although before the show the audience have been kindly asked not to use their mobile phones for taking photos and recording videos of the performance, some people seem utterly unable to restrain from doing so. Not even a personal reminder by Anderson himself will do the trick: »The light flashes in my eyes and it is very off-putting, please don’t do it.« Finally, this reaches the point at which the singer calls his securities during the songs (without interrupting them, though) to show them who in the audience is currently using their phones, upon which they run back down to shut the disturbers down. If every artist were this determined, many a concert might again be a pleasure like this one.

Tony Iommi, who, shortly, was a member of Jethro Tull himself before heading back to Birmingham to start Black Sabbath, announces the song »Bouree« – to which the audience autonomously starts clapping to the beat. After »My God«, which caused several problems for the band at the time (»They just didn’t read the lyrics properly!«) Anderson sends the audience to a fifteen-minute break with the hit »Thick As A Brick«.

»No way to slow down«

The second half starts with »A Passion Play« – announced by Iron Maiden’s Steve Harris, himself a »fan of Jethro Tull’s magical genius for 45 years!« After »Too Old To Rock ’N‘ Roll« it is »Songs from the Wood« from the same titled album that ensures absolute chills. Anderson celebrates his music with every single move, yet without a trace of arrogance or egomania. The lovingly designed tour concept seems spotless – its »magnetic frontman«, as skug-author Walter Pontis chooses to describe him, even thinks of a different concluding pose for the end of every song right before the lights go out. After »Ring Out, Solstice Bells« (requested by Def Leppard’s Joe Elliott), »Heavy Horses«, the king Henry VIII cover »Pastime With Good Company« and »Farm On The Freeway« the audience are greeted by Slash in the next video clip. He announces »one of the greatest tunes of rock ‘n’ roll«: »Aqualung«. But tonight’s version has modified lyrics: instead of the army it is now »Oxford college up the road«, and a student on the screen sings about his seemingly perspectiveless future. A detail that undermines the timelessness of Jethro Tull’s music, very much to Anderson’s artistic intention. After an unsuspectedly agile dance interlude during the guitar solo (naturally followed by a liquid refreshment) frontman and band leave the stage and cheering audience. The encore is not surprising: the musicians reappear, play an elongated intro, Anderson hops back onto the stage and the legendary riff from »Locomotive Breath« starts. Standing ovations are the well-deserved result.

Author: Robin Frank

Read the German version of this article on skug.at

More information / photo credits:
http://jethrotull.com
https://www.stadthalle.com
© Travis Latam

Festival Review: Lovely Days Festival, 09.07.2016

Blog, Festival Review

Catch Them While You Can

This year’s Lovely Days Festival took place in Schlosspark Eisenstadt, Austria. For the first time the festival managers decided to choose a new location instead of the very popular Wiesen – a good decision, the ambience was fantastic! The excitement was tremendous – as were the expectations, given the impressive line-up.

Ten Years After

Ten Years After, a band that played Woodstock and could arguably be called a historical group, was formed in 1967 by Leo Lyons (bass) and Alvin Lee (guitar, vocals). Now, the frontman is the much younger Marcus Bonfanti (guitar, vocals, harmonica) and he is doing a great job. Not only is he a capable guitarist, his voice is just mind-blowing! Only thing was that the other, well, older band members seemed and sounded quite tired indeed. Ric Lee’s drumming especially was pretty loose. But apart from that, Ten Years After served the crowd some fine blues rock with a great young singer.

The Sweet

Next in line were the Sweet – what an iconic band! Who does not know their glam rock hits Fox On The Run or Teenage Rampage? As if on purpose, their performance was quite the opposite of Ten Years After: better drumming, weaker vocals! To be honest, it was hard concentrating on the music since it lacked energy. It seems their era is slowly coming to an end.

Mother’s Finest

The low point of the day for me were Mother’s Finest. The funk-rock-soul-crossover band consisting of six members, including the female singer Joyce Kennedy, who did most of the main vocals, was the weakest group considering musical ability. The singer’s voice does have power and good quality, she just did not use it adequately and thus sounded somewhat hysterical most of the time, which was not exactly pleasant to listen to. What was worse though, was the guitar performance by Gary Moore (how wrong it sounds saying that…but the guy’s name really is Gary Moore!). Admittedly I do not know whether he is always on such a low level or if he just had a bad day – but this was more Guitar Hero above anything else.

Seiler & Speer

Seiler & Speer, a momentary hit-wonder from Austria, did not exactly enhance my mood. I felt like on Oktoberfest or the like. Anyway, I found that they were actually quite alright. The vocals were fine and so were the musicians, but the best thing was that they were really sympathetic and motivated the crowd. Righteously, they also made sure to mention that they feel very out of place on a rock festival like this one, but heartily thanked everybody for supporting them, which was really nice.

Ian Anderson

Finally, the acts that I actually came for were about to start. First off was Ian Anderson – a real favourite of mine. Being a huge Jethro Tull fan (the first band that enters my mind when hearing the term “prog”) and listening to the records up and down for years on end, I could not believe I was going to see this legend live on stage. It was a cool concert, Anderson played songs like My God, Songs from the Wood, a few tunes from the 16th century and naturally the classics such as Thick as a Brick, Aqualung (god, what an album!) and Locomotive Breath.

Strange thing was, though, that the concert was at its best in the beginning but gradually decreasing in terms of voice quality. This might have to do with his age, but it might also be the fact that he just does not dig his own hits anymore (Locomotive Breath was the Jethro Tull encore since 1972… imagine that!) and therefore wants to add a slight change to them at every gig. „Slight change“ meaning he just sung it differently than on the record – in the end he did not even really sing anymore, it was rather more of a whining on every syllable. I cherish improvisation, but it just did not sound good. Overall it was a decent performance though, especially in terms of instrumental quality.

Deep Purple

The festival’s headliner, Deep Purple, was naturally arousing the most excitement that night. The crowd was expecting hard rock hymns by one of the greatest hard rock bands of all time. Well, that’s what the crowd got, starting off with Highway Star. Knowing that Ian Gillan’s voice is not comparable anymore to his younger days, and the fact of Highway Star being a very difficult song lyrically and melodically, it didn’t turn out all too well.  But I was prepared for this and looked forward to what came next. Funny thing was that again the performance was the opposite to the act before. Now, the concert got better and better toward the end regarding Ian Gillan’s vocals. Instrumentally, both bands were flawless. They naturally played the classics Strange Kind of Woman, Black Night, Smoke on the Water and Hush for the encore.

To sum it up: three out of six acts were really cool. Ten Years After surprised me because of the very good singer, Ian Anderson and Deep Purple were partially exactly how I hoped they would be, and partially they didn’t fulfill my expectations. The main point here being that age always takes its toll, and that an era of legends is definitely coming to an end – you can feel it now more than ever. So just make the most of it and use every chance you get to see them – I’m glad I did.

Author: Robin Frank

More info / photo credits:
Lovely Days Festival