Ian Anderson performs the rock opera Jethro Tull @ Sage Gateshead 13th September 2015
Things come full circle. The touring band known as Jethro Tull seems to have been shelved, with Tull frontman and our manic flautist hero Ian Anderson touring under his own name, and Tull guitarist Martin Barre doing likewise. But Ian Anderson couldn’t keep away from the Tull moniker and concept for too long. So, as “a tribute to the original 18th Century agriculturalist” whose name the band borrowed back in February 1968, our hero has “imagined a scenario where the pioneering pursuit of improved crop-growing and farming methodology might apply to the world of today and tomorrow”. This led to the development of “Jethro Tull: the Rock Opera”, the delights of which Norm, Will and I experienced a few days ago at the Sage Gateshead. Anderson’s rock opera concept is this: take the story of the original farmer and inventor Jethro Tull and bring it up to date; tell that tale through the songs of Jethro Tull the band (and a few new ones written especially for the occasion), and create a theatrical stage show which takes the audience through the story. The show is very much just that; “a show” rather than a concert. The band provide the music, playing in front of a giant HD video screen. On the screen appear a cast of “virtual guests” who play the parts of Mr Tull and his family, narrate the story and sing segments of the songs. Anderson explains it thus: “Instead of spoken introductions to the songs in the show, there will be the use of that operatic device, the “recitative”, where the links are made by short sung vocal segments in a usually-simple musical backdrop”. So the songs are sung in part by Anderson live, and in part by virtual singers on the screen. The songs flow from one to the next with short video segments as bridges.
The show started at 7.30pm prompt. Parking problems made us a little late, and we had to wait outside until first song “Heavy Horses” was finished (“a suitable break in the performance”). The first half was around one hour and there was a short interval before “the show” resumed. How did it work? Very well actually. The video was high quality and the sequencing between Anderson and band and the virtual singers was faultless. Anderson’s voice may not be quite as strong as it was “back in the day” so the use of video allowed him some vocal rest, and gave welcome variety to the performance. However, I must say that Ian’s flute playing remains as excellent as ever, and his stage presence and antics are undiminished. The virtual sets were as you might imagine; we were transported onscreen to Preston station for “Cheap Day Return” and deep into the forest for “Song from the Wood”. Great Tull fun. Special mention to Unnur Birna Bjornsdottir whose vocals were exquisite and made for great reworkings of Tull classics, particularly “The Witch’s Promise” and Florian Opahle, whose guitar playing was tremendous. A very different and highly enjoyable Tull evening. Great to see old friend Doug and other fellow Tullites.
What next Ian?
Part 1: Heavy Horses; Wind-Up; Aqualung; With You There to Help Me; Back to the Family; Farm on the Freeway; Prosperous Pasture; Fruits of Frankenfield; Songs From the Wood
Set 2: And the World Feeds Me; Living in the Past; Jack-in-the-Green; The Witch’s Promise; Weathercock; Stick, Twist, Bust; Cheap Day Return; A New Day Yesterday; The Turnstile Gate; Locomotive Breath
Encore: Requiem and Fugue
The Musicians: Ian Anderson (flute, vocals, guitar), Florian Opahle (guitar), John O’Hara (piano; Hammond organ), Greig Robinson (bass), Scott Hammond (drums, percussion).
The (virtual) Players: Ryan O’Donnell (the younger Jethro, and Jasper son of Jethro), Unnur Birna Bjornsdottir (Susannah, wife of Jethro), David Goodier (Jethros’ father), Ian Anderson (Narrator and the older Jethro), John O’Hara (scientist and choirmaster).
Archive for the ‘Jethro Tull’ Category
Ian Anderson performs the rock opera Jethro Tull @ Sage Gateshead 13th September 2015
Jethro Tull Acoustic Middlesbrough Town Hall 2007
In 2007 Jethro Tull released “The Best of Acoustic Jethro Tull” which included some of the band’s best known acoustic tracks from 1969 onward. To promote the album the band toured an acoustic show, which called at Middlesbrough Town Hall.
The line-up of Tull for this tour was Ian Anderson, Martin Barre, David Goodier, John O’Hara and James Duncan Anderson. They were accompanied by special guest Violinist Anna Phoebe. Setlist: Some Day The Sun Wont Shine For You; Living In The Past; The Water Carrier; Gypsy; Katerina’s Theme; Jack In The Green; The Donkey And The Drum; Thick As A Brick; Birnam Wood To Dunsinane; Fat Man; Bouree. INTERVAL. 99 Lives; Dun Ringill; Pastime With Good Company; Steal; Aqualung; America; My God; Beside Myself / Rocks On The Road / Budapest; Locomotive Breath. The folkier side of Tull was never my favourite in the late 70s and early 80s, but I grew to like it as time passed. I certainly enjoyed this gig, which presented the softer, acoustic side of the band.
Jethro Tull Newcastle City Hall 2004 and 2006
I saw Jethro Tull at the City Hall in 2004 and 2006. Tull were involved in quite a number of projects during these years. In 2003 they released The Jethro Tull Christmas Album, which consisted of a collection of traditional Christmas songs, along with some Christmas songs written by Jethro Tull. The album was a big success and their best selling release since the 1987 Crest of a Knave.
The set for the 2004 concert included quite a few Christmas songs as a result, as well as some great old favourites like Beggars Farm and Nothing Is Easy, taking us right back to the very early days of the band. The setlist for the 2004 Newcastle concert (I got the list from a bootleg which was recorded at this gig): Aqua-Intro; Living In The Past; Nothing Is Easy; Beggar’s Farm; Eurology; A Christmas Song; Farm on the Freeway; Pavane; Weathercock; A Week of Moments; Mother Goose; MisÃƒÂ©re; Songs From The Wood; Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die; Heavy Horses; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Flying Dutchman; My God; Holly Herald; Aqualung; Wind Up; Locomotive Breath; Protect and Survive; Cheerio. Both shows were great Tull fun. I went along with Norm and Will and we all enjoyed seeing the old guys again.
In 2005 Ian Anderson released a live double album and DVD called Ian Anderson Plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull. In addition, a DVD recorded live at the Isle of Wight 1970 and a live album called Aqualung Live (recorded in 2004) were both released in 2005. There were also further line-up changes in 2006 with bassist Jon Noyce leaving to be replaced by David Goodier, and keyboardist Giddings leaving to be replaced by John O’Hara. The 2006 tour was billed as the Aqualung tour, and Tull played that lp in its entirety. Setlist: Life Is A Long Song, Skating Away…, Living In The Past, Slipstream, Up To Me, Griminelli’s Lament¹, Aurora³, Wond’ring Aloud, Mo’z Art, Cheap Day Return/Mother Goose, She Is Like The Swallow, Bourée. Interval. Nocturne/Bohemian Rhapsody, Kashmir (incl. Whole Lotta Love), Cross-Eyed Mary, Hymn 43, Morris Minus, Flying Dutchman (intro)/My God, Budapest, Aqualung, Wind-Up, Locomotive Breath, Protect And Survive, Cheerio. Tull were accompanied by electric violinist Lucia Micarelli for this tour, and she also fronted the band herself for a couple of songs notably covers of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Zeppelin’s Kashmir. Electric violinists featured alongside Ian on a couple of Tull tours around this period. The 2006 concert was a sell out, proving that the band retained their popularity, and that they still have a loyal fan base.
Jethro Tull York Barbican 2001
My interest in Jethro Tull had been revived by the great show that I attended at Newcastle City Hall in 1999. I was therefore quite disappointed when their 2001 outing missed out Newcastle, so I persuaded Marie to come and see them with me in York, which was the nearest show on the tour. The concert was held at the York Barbican centre which was a sports complex and also used for concerts. This was the first time that I’d visited the Barbican. I did go with David to see Steve Winwood there a couple of years later. The Barbican has recently been refurbished, and it reopened a couple of years ago as an entertainment centre, which plays host to lots of concerts. I need to find a reason to visit again 🙂 Tull were on grand form as usual, and I enjoyed the show, although there were quite a few songs which were unfamiliar to me. Looking at the setlist today, I understand why. At least four of the songs were Ian Anderson solo tracks (Ian had released three solo albums by 2001). Even Marie (sort of) enjoyed her Tull outing, although we had a (friendly) argument about Ian’s flute solos. When he started a solo he would press a foot pedal. Marie was convinced that the solo was on tape, and that Ian was switching the tape on with the pedal. I was equally convinced (and remain so to this day) that there was no such use of tapes at all, and that the pedal was merely an effects pedal. Setlist: Aqualung; My Sunday Feeling; Cross-Eyed Mary; Roots to Branches; Jack-in-the-Green; Thick as a Brick; Sweet Dream; Beside Myself; Hunt by Numbers; Bourée; The Water Carrier (Ian Anderson song); The Habanero Reel (Ian Anderson song); Set-Aside (Ian Anderson song); Pibroch (Cap in Hand) (Instrumental); A New Day Yesterday; In the Grip of Stronger Stuff (Ian Anderson song); Budapest; Mayhem Jig; Aqualung; Locomotive Breath; Living in the Past; Protect and Survive (Instrumental); Cheerio
Jethro Tull Newcastle City Hall 1999
It was another 9 years before I saw Jethro Tull again. By this time the line-up had changed a little (again) to: Ian Anderson (flute, vocals), Martin Barre (guitar), Andrew Giddings (keyboards), Jonathan Noyce (bass), and Doane Perry (drums). They had just released the album J-Tull Dot Com. The new material displayed Eastern and world music influences, but as usual the concert featured a mix of Tull material from throughout their career. I’d lost touch with Jethro Tull up to this point, but this concert reminded me how great they were (and still are), and how much I had enjoyed their music. It was great to see Ian Anderson and Martin Barre in particular. Ian was ever the showman, although his voice was not as strong as it had been. Martin’s guitar playing and quiet presence were as excellent as always. And they played classics like Living in the Past, Witches Promise and Fat Man. Great stuff. I was hooked again, and started to attend Tull concerts more regularly from that point onward. Setlist: Steel Monkey; For a Thousand Mothers; Serenade to a Cuckoo; Spiral; Witches Promise; Nothing Is Easy; Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square; Fat Man; AWOL; A New Day Yesterday; Nellie the Revenge; Dot Com; Boris Dancing; Hunting Girl; Hunt by Numbers; Flying Dutchman; My God (with flute solo); Passion Jig; Locomotive Breath; Aquadiddley; Aqualung; Living in the Past; Dogs in the Midwinter; The Dambusters March; Cheerio
Jethro Tull Sunderland Empire 1990
I went with a group of mates to this gig, some 19 years since we first saw Jethro Tull at the same venue. The late 80s and early 90s saw Tull return to rock and the blues for the albums Crest of a Knave (1987), Rock Island (1989), and Catfish Rising (1991). The one thing that sticks in my mind about this gig is Ian coming on stage with a massive search light which he then proceeded to shine at all of us. Looking back at the set list for the concert (of which live recordings exist) reminds me that Tull played some great old favourites that night; including Living In The Past and Love Story (that song is still a big favourite of mine). There was no support act for this show.
Thanks to Doug for the great picture, which he took at this concert.
Setlist: Intro: Tanz, Wond’ring Aloud, Steel Monkey, Thick As A Brick, Living In The Past, Rock Island, Nellie The Revenge (inst.), Cheap Day Return/Nursie, Mother Goose/Jack-A-Lynn, Love Story, Serenade To A Cuckoo, A Christmas Song, Budapest, Strange Avenues, Kissing Willie, Pine Martin’s Jig/Drowsy Maggie, Dun Ringill, Jack-In-The-Green, Said She Was A Dancer, My God (including flute solo, Bourée), Pussy Willow/Pibroch (instrumental), Another Christmas Song, Farm On The Freeway, Too Old To Rock’N’Roll, Aqualung, Locomotive Breath, Fylingdale Flyer (instrumental), Cheerio.
Jethro Tull Newcastle City Hall 1984
Jethro Tull returned to Newcastle City Hall in September 1984. The tour was to promote their new album Under Wraps. This new release introduced an 80s electronic/synth-pop sound, to a mixed reaction from fans and critics. The concert was, however, a big success, with quite a long set drawing from many of Tull’s albums (by 1984 they had released 15 albums!). Tull also played a couple of track from Ian Anderson’s solo album Walk Into Light, which was released in 1983. Under Wraps #1; Locomotive Breath (Instrumental intro); Hunting Girl; Under Wraps #1; Later, That Same Evening; Nobody’s Car; Apogee; Thick as a Brick; Level Pegging; Skating Away on the Thin Ice of the New Day; Pussy Willow; Clasp; Living in the Past; Serenade to a Cuckoo; Fat Man; Fly by Night; Made in England; European Legacy; Black Sunday; Aqualung; Locomotive Breath; Too Old to Rock ‘n’ Roll, Too Young to Die; Different Germany; Thick as a Brick (reprise).
Thanks to Doug for the picture which was taken at the City Hall at Tull’s visit in 1982. The band at this point consisted of Ian Anderson (flute, vocals and part-time detective for this tour concept), Martin Barre (guitar), Dave Pegg (bass), Peter-John Vettese (keyboards) and new man Doane Perry (drums). The programme consists of photos of the band members, depicting Ian Anderson as a super-sleuth (the subject matter of the songs on Under Wraps is heavily influenced by Ian’s love of espionage fiction), and lyrics from some of the songs which were performed during the concerts.