Living in the past

I saw Jethro Tull for the second time at the Benaroya Concert Hall in Seattle. The Benaroya Concert Hall is an awesome place to check out concerts because of its great acoustics, and I was looking forward to hearing a band whose music I really admired dish it out in such a cool setting.

The opening band was the Young Dubliners, who, in all fairness, put on an incredibly energetic performance overshadowing their older compatriots. Their music is akin to a mix of the Pogues, Tempest, Giant Ant Farm, and the Levellers, but with less of a punk feel and more of a rock aesthetic. The crowd was really into them and I was really impressed as well. They are definitely worth checking out if you're into the rock of today.

What Jethro Tull lacked in raw energy, compared to the Young Dubliners, they made up for it in pure skill. Even though Ian Anderson, their frontman, scoffed at labels applied to them by music critics, the band was in fine progressive form, playing their repertoire of songs with syncopated time signatures and melacholic combination of guitars, violins (synthesised) and the flute. They had long jams and it was clear that Martin Barre on the guitar. Doane Perry on drums, Andrew Giddings on keyboards, and Jonathan Noyce on bass were in fine form, nicely complementing Anderson's flute work.

The last time I saw the band, Anderson had a broken leg and had to move around in a wheelchair. As if to make up for that, he spent a lot of his time standing on one leg play his flute, the symbol that has come to epitomise the band itself. In fact, given his age (54), the effort he spent was admirable.

Anderson's quips between songs were typical of how he represents himself to the media. He managed to get an atheist dig in, referring to the evils of religion (as the crowd cheered), and then clarifying that he was referring to Christianity before launching into Roots to Branches.

Before playing the Bach-inspired Bourée, Anderson mentioned that Bach might be turning in his grave (or not) at their "butchering" of his composition. I'm not sure of Bach's reaction, but what Jethro Tull played, that included a slap-bass solo, sounded amazing (and that's probably more a tribute to Bach than to Jethro Tull).

Other tunes they played included Living in the Past, Cross-Eyed Mary, Hunt by Numbers, Thick as a Brick, Elegy, The Water Carrier, Boris Dancing, and Budapest.

From my perspective, it was a performance punctuated by the less-familiar tunes. I had to leave before the encore, but I would love to see a Jethro Tull show with songs like Bungle in the Jungle, Skating Away, and Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll, Too Young to Die.

Still, if you hold a point of view that a concert experience should be very different from listening to an album produced in the studio, then Jethro Tull is one of the acts that's hard to beat in this regard. An amazing concert experience!

Music ramblings || Ram Samudrala || || June 8, 2002