»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