The British Press loves JETHRO TULL, Written and Performed by Ian Anderson. Now delighting audiences in South America, the production wrapped up its first leg in the UK last week.
This multi-media night of music by the band Jethro Tull offers new life on both the songs and the inspiration of the original Jethro Tull, the famous 18th Century agriculturist and inventor of the seed drill.
It’s “something remarkable to beheld,” writes Andy Snipper of London’s MUSIC NEWS. “It isn’t often that I go overboard about live performances but I have to say that if you don’t have a ticket for a show on this tour you need to be out there searching. It wasn’t about the performances – although they were excellent – or about the songs – once more great songs. It is about a concept brought through to completion that is in itself circular and thoroughly original but also immediately familiar to anyone familiar with the band.”
It was only recently that Ian began researching the life of the man that his band took the name of 48 years ago on a weekly audition night at London’s famed UK club, The Marquee.
The performance of Jethro Tull includes favorites “Aqualung,” “Living In The Past,” “Wind-Up,” “A New Day Yesterday,” and “Locomotive Breath” alongside of songs that could be about Jethro Tull including “Heavy Horses,” “Farm On The Freeway,” “Songs From The Wood” and “The Witch’s Promise.” Some of them are rewritten slightly to better tell the tale.
The band features Greig Robinson (bass), John O’Hara (keyboards), Florian Opahle (guitar), Scott Hammond (drums) and virtual guests including Ryan O’Donnell who toured with Ian from 2012-2014/15. Bassist David Goodier, who has played with both Jethro Tull and with Ian since 2002, appears in Ian’s virtual world. Also on the big screen is Unnur Birna Björnsdóttir as the Agricutluralist’s wife. Writes Public Reviews Selwyn Knight, “She is expressive and has a beautifully clear and pure voice that cuts through the rumble of drums and guitars. She’s a mean violinist, too.”
Knight also raves about Ian Anderson’s charisma, “to whom all eyes are drawn… a looming stage presence, stalking the stage like a caged animal casting notes from his flute far and wide, occasionally rising to stand on one leg in his signature silhouette. Even singing at the microphone, one feels there is great energy barely held in check as he is never quite still. A consummate showman with a unique voice and flute style.”
Ian Anderson recently won The Prog God Award from Prog Magazine, celebrating the innovators of rock who have inspired generations and carved a way for others to be at their creative best. There is no one who has pushed the boundaries more than Ian Anderson, who to this day remains immersed in his love for the music.
Fronting seminal Prog outfit Jethro Tull and performing simply under his own name, Ian Anderson has performed in more than 54 countries over 45 years; he is widely considered an icon of the genre and is recognized as the protagonist of the flute in rock music. With over 60 million albums sold in its career, Tull has been characterized by Anderson’s trademark acoustic textures created with ethnic flutes and whistles together with acoustic guitar and the mandolin family of instruments. In many recent shows, Anderson has played with orchestras, string quartets and featured soloists. His eclectic acoustic performances are also a hit with fans of the progressive genre. Look for more dates in Russia and throughout Europe and South America before the end of the year. Below are the November U.S. shows. Below that are the full reviews.
November 1: Chicago Theatre, Chicago, IL
November 3: Fox Theatre, Detroit, MI
November 5: CITI Performing Arts Center, Boston, MA
November 6: Kings Theatre, Brooklyn, NY
November 7: Academy of Music, Philadelphia, PA
November 8: Foxwoods Resort Casino, Mashantucket, CT
November 10: Capitol Theatre, Port Chester, NY
November 11: New Jersey Performing Arts Center, Newark, NJ
Selwyn Knight’s write-up in THE PUBLIC REVIEWS of JETHRO TULL from Symphony Hall in Birmingham, UK. http://www.thepublicreviews.com/jethro-tull-the-rock-opera-symphony-hall-birmingham/
Say the name ‘Jethro Tull’ to people and you are likely to elicit one of three responses depending on their age and interests – a blank look; if of a historical bent: ‘Oh, yes, the famous 18th Century agriculturist and inventor of the seed drill’; or, if someone of a certain age, ‘Oh yes, the famous progressive rock/folk fusion band led by Ian Anderson’. The central conceit of this evening is that Ian Anderson and other musicians tell the story of Jethro Tull (the man) using songs from the extensive repertoire of Jethro Tull (the band, now, according to Anderson, officially disbanded).
Anderson tells how it was only relatively recently that he began looking into the life of the man and that he recognised that songs from his back catalogue could represent events and moods during Tull’s life. So the seed of the idea for Jethro Tull The Rock Opera germinated, was tended and grew.
Tull was an agricultural pioneer. His design of the seed drill improved productivity and he continued to invent ways of improving yields throughout his life. Anderson has taken the outline of Tull’s life and replanted it in the near future; in this vision, Tull becomes a leading government scientist and wealthy businessman in the field of genetically modified crops before becoming disillusioned and returning to a more organic lifestyle.
The song choices Anderson has made do indeed suit the story with little modification. And he has wisely ensured that some real crowd-pleasers are included – Heavy Horses, Aqualung, Songs from the Wood, Living in the Past, The Witch’s Promise and Locomotive Breath all feature. The story is largely told through video projection with characters from the story – Jethro Tull, his father, wife and son chief among them – appearing and singing with the onstage band. This is very effective and allows Anderson and the musicians to do what they do best – rock Symphony Hall to its foundations – while maintaining the narrative. On screen, Unnur Birna Björnsdóttir sings as Tull’s wife. She is expressive and has a beautifully clear and pure voice that cuts through the rumble of drums and guitars. She’s a mean violinist, too. Ryan O’Donnell, currently starring as Ray Davies in The Kinks’ musical, Sunny Afternoon, cuts a suitable figure as the young Tull trying to make a name and also the mildly disillusioned son. He sounds disconcertingly similar to the young Anderson as well. The whole is technically perfect with the onstage band and the video footage synchronising perfectly. A nice touch is the use of archive Jethro Tull footage showing a young Ian Anderson in full flow on the flute alongside today’s model live onstage.
And it is Anderson to whom all eyes are drawn. He has great charisma and is a looming stage presence, stalking the stage like a caged animal casting notes from his flute far and wide, occasionally rising to stand on one leg in his signature silhouette. Even singing at the microphone, one feels there is great energy barely held in check as he is never quite still. A consummate showman with a unique voice and flute style.
The other musicians are first rate: Scott Hammond’s drums provide an insistent, almost industrial driving force contrasting with the delicacy of some of Anderson’s flute work. Often understated keyboards from John O’Hara add to the tonal mix. However, the lead guitar of Florian Opahle really strikes the ear. Technically superb, he makes notes soar over the heads of the audience. All are equally at home rocking it and also with the pastoral more introspective pieces.
As an evening celebrating the music of Jethro Tull, a greatest hits evening, the performance works. The use of some other singers is refreshing and gives familiar songs a new sound and life. However, the narrative of the story of Jethro Tull (the man) is less well developed – one really needs to read the synopsis in the programme to see the narrative arc. However, this aspect of the evening is perhaps the least important to fans of Jethro Tull (the band). Wearing T-shirts celebrating all eras in the band’s long life from 1967 to 2014, they, and this reviewer, are happy to hear iconic songs performed with gusto by the man who originally wrote them. And in this regard, one cannot fault the evening.
From London’s MUSIC NEWS, this is Andy Snipper’s review. It isn’t often that I go overboard about live performances but I have to say that if you don’t have a ticket for a show on this tour you need to be out there searching.
It wasn’t about the performances – although they were excellent – or about the songs – once more great songs. It is about a concept brought through to completion that is in itself circular and thoroughly original but also immediately familiar to anyone familiar with the band. To clarify: Ian Anderson named his band Jethro Tull after an 18th Century farmer and agriculturalist who invented a mechanical seed drill and mechanised hoe. Jethro Tull (the band) were extremely successful and Ian Anderson decided to make a rock opera of the life of the man who the band were named after, set in the modern day and using the songs of the band to illustrate his life.
The performance at Shepherd’s Bush last night was superb and the use of filmed and digital backdrops with some of the performers on the album singing in the film and perfectly synched with the live performance happening on stage added immensely to the ‘show’. The band were Anderson’s touring band of Florian Opahle on guitar, John O’Hara on keyboards, Scott Hammond on drums and Grieg Robinson on bass but there were also excellent filmed performances by Ryan O’Donnel as the young Jethro, David Goodier as the older Tull and wonderful singing and violin from Unnur Birna Bjornsdóttir as Jethro’s wife and mother. All were excellent but Ian Anderson is such a perfect front man that when he was on stage all eyes were inevitably on him.
Speaking of Ian Anderson, when the band started in 1967 he was whip-thin, lithe and as hairy as any of his contemporaries. He also had a great and very unique voice and occasionally played flute. In 2015 he is stockier, bald and has less of a voice than 50 years earlier. However, he is the same prancing and gesticulating actor/artist, can still balance on one leg while playing flute, plays more and better flute than in the past and is still utterly captivating onstage. The show itself featured a veritable ‘best of’ of Jethro Tull music including songs not heard for years – ‘Living In The Past’, ‘Witch’s Promise’ – tracks from ‘Aqualung’ and also the later albums such as ‘Heavy Horses’. These were not shoe-horned in to fit but, where necessary, the lyrics were tweaked to add relevance. It is NOT a bog standard concert, it really does have a readily understood theme and the show in toto is something remarkable to behold.