JETHRO TULL Alexandra Theatre,Birmingham 26 March 2007
It's comforting to know that in this indie, post punk, myspace era that some things don't change. And along with Heinz beans, classic rock is still, well, classic. Even some of those childhood fizzy 'pop' drinks are making a resurgence - Tizer, Dandelion & Burdock and Cream Soda. Those were the days.
And it was way back in those heady days of the late 60's/early 70's that many of us latched on to the enduring brilliance of Jethro Tull. Some 30+ years later we've been privileged to witness a prodigious career, including the 25th Anniversary tour, the 2006 Aqualung 35th Anniversary tour, and now a celebration of the acoustic side of the band affectionately known as simply, Tull.
Except it wasn't quite Tull, and it wasn't quite acoustic.
Without much of the normal Tull supporting cast, but with stalwart Martin Barre on acoustic guitar, Anderson is more than ably supported on the tour (which will wend it's way merrily across North and South America and much of Europe) by his orchestral and solo touring band of John O'Hara on piano and accordion, David Goodier on acoustic bass, and James Duncan on drums and percussion, plus London based rock violinist (and GRTR! blogger) Anna Phoebe on 6 string and acoustic violins.
And while perhaps not genuinely 'acoustic', the tour does focus on some of the more gentle refrains from the Tull catalogue. Based loosely around the recently released Best Of Acoustic Jethro Tull CD, the set spans everything from 1968's Some Day The Sun Won't Shine For You from 'This Was' (a wonderful set opener featuring Anderson on blues harmonica and Martin Barre on acoustic) to some of Ian Anderson's latter day solo work, the 2004 Tull Christmas album and even the odd new track.
Alongside acoustically conceived gems such as Living In The Past, Jack In The Green, Dun Ringill and many more, the set also featured semi - acoustic versions of some of the best loved Tull numbers such as Fat Man, an abridged Thick As A Brick, My God, an alternative version of Aqualung, Beside Myself, Rocks On The Road and Locomotive Breath, alongside homages to J S Bach (Bouree), Henry VIII (Pastime With Good Company) and Bernstein/Keith Emerson (America), as well as several numbers by Anna Phoebe and a wonderful virtuoso - Spanish Tears - by Martin Barre.
The addition of Anna Phoebe to the line up added an extra dimension to the set. Clearly Ian Anderson has a passion for young female violinists (and why not?) - as demonstrated by the inclusion of Lucia Micarelli on the 2006 Aqualung tour who rejuvenated Anderson and added a fresh twist to the material. Although on this occasion, it was Anderson and Barre who enjoyed the majority of the spotlight.
Looking relaxed and evidently still enjoying performing after all these years, it was yet again a pleasure to witness one of Britain's greatest writers, musicians and showmen. And as with any Ian Anderson/Tull gig, you're guaranteed an evening of good company, good cheer, and classic - in this case acoustic - rock. Life is, indeed, a long song.