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bear by san

March 2017



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bear by san

he feels the piston scraping -- steam breaking on his brow --

Once upon a time, there was a pretty good little electric blues band that got really tired of 4/4 time--

The thing about Jethro Tull that you can't really appreciate until you've seen them live is the way in which they are different from any other rock band I've ever seen: people laugh at Tull concerts. Not just at Ian Anderson's patter, though that does tend to draw guffaws and giggles. But during the actual songs, intermittently, people will burst out in peals of startled delight at something--a clever beyond words musical transition, a bit of stage business, Ian flourishing his most phallic of instruments in the most phallic of locations. (Those frontmen who limit themselves to electric guitar are missing out on a whole world of ludity.)

There's something about a Tull concert that makes me fall in love for two hours. My chest grows pleasantly achy; my breath gets tight. It's as if the presence of Ian Anderson in stage persona is enough to kick off an endorphin buzz. He gives fantastic energy: the only performer I've seen with more charisma is Iggy Pop.

When somebody in the audience shouts, loud and clear into a near-silence, "I love you, Ian!" she gets a tremendous roar of approval. We love Ian. We love the self-parody and the complexities and the humor and the doing hard things just because it's fun. Ian Anderson on stage is an endless adventure in "Bet I can do that backwards! No hands! Er, whoops!"

I've been to six Tull shows. One of them was when Ian was recovering from DVT and performing on a wrecked knee and his voice was completely nonexistent. (It's fragile and limited now: that particular tour he barely spoke, nevermind singing.) It wasn't a good concert, that time, critically speaking? But I still walked out feeling light-shouldered and delighted.

It's Ian's gift.

Ian's getting on in years, now. (He turned 60 in August.) He's not the ranting, leaping, athletic presence of yore. But he's as mercurial as ever, and as demonstrative, sauntering and hopping about the stage with dramatic hand gestures. (Martin Barre, by contrast, grows more nonchalant and stoic by the year.) But Ian's wit is alive--sharp, erudite, and full of dirty puns. Of Bourée, for example, he says, "...a piece of respectable classical music that over the years we have converted into porno jazz." And in the lead-in to a completely re-arranged, almost unrecognizable version of Aqualung, he comments, "I've been trying to get my flute iiiinto this next piece since 1972." The new arrangement is fey, flute standing in for vocal, almost ethereal--and then, with a crunch and a thump, twists itself inside out and comes back as a hard-driving rock and roll version, same as it ever was, only trickier and more complex.

That's the hallmark of the current Tull tour, it seems. Complexity. While sticking mostly to standards from their bluesier years--the only soujourn into territory more recent than Songs from the Wood or Heavy Horses (other than a solo tune apiece for Ian and Martin) was an enchanting rendition of "Budapest"--the arrangements grow ever trickier. The stage show may be stripped down, but the music is complex. They performed with a string quartet out of Boston tonight, adding richness and sweep to the old Tull standards. Bass player David Goodier, who I have not seen with the band before, had the wit to keep up with the demands of live Tull, which is to say--the music has to be delightful and surprising, or it's not Tull, and was nothing less than spectacular on an extended edit of "Thick as a Brick" that also involved what I believe was a ukelele.

Ian's never particularly melodious but once-flexible voice is shot; he chants the songs now as much as sings them, and his voice scrapes and breaks. He's rearranged a lot of them to make use of his prodigious flute skills--from self-taught and awkward, he's blossomed into something spectacular. (Rumor was that he decided to learn proper technique in between Catfish Rising and Roots to Branches when his daughter came home with her school flute and said, "Dad, you're doing it wrong.")

The show was arranged in two one-hour sets. Maybe Ian can't quite handle a two hour show plus encore without a break anymore, but he makes sure you get your money's worth. The first of the two sets was bluesier and more acoustic. Gangling Doane Perry was induced to emerge (and emerge, and emerge) from behind the drumset and come play some bongos on the front of the stage. (There was a structural incident; Doane kept playing while an alert stage hand ran out and effected field repairs on the instrument as in use.)

That one started of with "Someday the Sun Won't Shine For You," and ended with "Nothing is Easy," concentrating on songs off albums in the sixties and seventies--"Living in the Past," "Fat Man," and so forth. There was one new song, an instrumental entitled "The Donkey and Drum," which Ian announced would be on the next Tull album, forthcoming in February... of 2012. Also, we heard an upbeat version of his solo tune "The Water Carriers." Others included "King Henry's Madrigal," and "Bourée," this time sans "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."

The second half kicked off with another track from This Was, "My Sunday Feeling," and promptly became far more rock and roll, including the revamped Aqualung with playful bits by keyboardist John O'Hara, My God (a fantastic arrangement that literally took my breath away, all those strings up under Martin's guitar pushing), the abovementioned "Thick as a Brick," and "Budapest," among others.

The encore was "Locomotive Breath." a song which I suspect I like almost as much as Ian does.


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I love Tull. Must manage to see them.

Skating Away... damn.

You must. While they're still touring.
ooh ooh. I've never seen them live but have loved them since I heard "Living in the Past" on a west Berlin jukebox in 1970 (or so). I thought they were saying "Lady with a Past" and had no idea who they were. I envy that you've seen them live and particularly at their best.
Well, I think they were slowing down a bit by the first time I caught them--I would have loved to have seen them in 1976 or so.

But then, I was very small. 0.0

Really, they're the best live act I've seen. They deliver the endorphins. *g*
I saw the Procul Harum tour too! I think that was the one where Ian was on the disabled list. Sweatpants, knee brace, and limping painfully. (He took a header off a stage, ripped up his knee badly, and then developed a deep vein thrombosis. He doesn't recommend it.)
Locomotive Breath is such a great song.
I grew up on Tull, thanks to my dad, and I finally got to see them recently. They've come to South Africa before, but it may have been something like 15 years ago...I don't remember it, certainly.

Anyway, this is just to say - your post = brilliance. I found myself nodding as I was reading.
You've captured it, thank you. :)
I am so glad you got to see them. My first time out was nearly by accident. I had Crest of a Knave and Original Masters, and liked them well enough, and all of my friends were going, and I tagged along--and was completely hooked.
Huh. I'm surprised Anderson isn't actually older than just "60" - he must have been just a sprout when those first albums came out, back when *I* was in high school. (It was "Bourée" that was my first introduction to Bach, in fact.)

I still have a soft spot for "Inside", come to think of it.
Thanks for the post. I used to play the 'Bursting Out' record a lot, but was disappointed when I finally saw them on the Under Wraps tour, from seats about 3 miles away. They mainly played stuff from that album and very little of their old material. Never tried again after that; just enjoyed the records.

Lovely post, vicarious experience--thanks!
Budapest is one of my all-time favorites. That's awesome that they are still performing. But hey, 60 is the new 40, or so say some co-workers in their 50s. ;)
Hee. Yes.

Completely OT: GRRM on SFWA

I don't know if you read George R. R. Martins blog (he doesn't post much, and little on the writing process that I have see) but he had a rather lengthy post on the SFWA which I thought you might find interesting.


Re: Completely OT: GRRM on SFWA

Interesting, but I don't think he understands where the "kids" are coming from.

When any of us say we don't see what we get out of SFWA, we don't mean, what can SFWA give us. We mean, what can it give the field? What use is it to genre writers? If it's just a social club, then honestly, any social club with Bill Sanders and Jerry Pournelle in it is not a club I need to join. I can get random abuse on the internets.

If it's a service organization, then it should *serve.* And such an organization as that, I would be happy to join.
I am quite jealous --have never seen Tull live and car troubles are going to make me miss them this time, since they're only in my area for a day!
hire a car! *g*
I went to one Tull show, at the Tower in Philadelphia. It wasn't a huge arena, it was more like a nightclub-sized room.

Ian poured wine into plastic glasses and went down the aisles handing them to the audience.

Best. Concert. Ever. :)
*g* I could gush about Ian for hours.

And I mean, I know where he's spending all the money I've given him over the years, and I approve.
There's something about a Tull concert that makes me fall in love for two hours.

Yes. That's it exactly. Yes. Thank you, now I'll have the words to explain the damned attraction that wild muse has for me!

I am, you understand, filled with envy that you got to see the show when it skated between my fingers before I knew it was coming here to Albany... but I'll just have to roll around in your concert review, by way of enjoying it vicariously. Thanks for that.
Hee. Yeah.

Sorry you missed them!
They haven't toured here in years, but my son and I went to every concert that showed up here. I have lots of memories of the shows.
I saw Tull in 2003, at Wolf Trap, on Ian's birthday. (The ticket was an anniversary gift from my wife, who loves me more than I deserve.) I was actually expecting them to be much more sedate than they were, and was impressed at how agile and physical the then 50-something, post-DVT Ian still was. I was also pleasantly surprised at how much of their classic material they were still doing, even if they did compress "Songs from the Wood," "Heavy Horses" and one or two others into a "Look, guys, we've been playing these songs forever" medley.

Best moment of that show? When they launched into "Hunting Girl" and I and the nice, respectable-looking middle-aged woman sitting next to me both yelled "YEEAAH!" And then we looked at each other and grinned....

Yeah, I love his wit and his showmanship and his inability to take his rock-star persona seriously. I love that it's obviously important to him to show off the other virtuosos in his company. (I was pleased to learn that Les Claypool, another self-effacing weird genius who makes the stuff he's doing better than it has any right to be, is the same way.) And I love that that he's carved out a little corner of progressive rock (a genre I adore, for all its excesses and self-importance and pomposity, but which isn't exactly famous for being able to laugh at itself) and kept it vibrant and joyous and funny for decades.

When I indulge in rock-star daydreams, Ian Anderson is what I wish I could be.
Yes. All of this.

Ian and Martin have managed to be creative without becoming self-important, and that is a rare thing.
Hee, Tull was my first concert ever, which probably explains many, many things I haven't thought about in years!

I was ten and Sib 2 (17) and Sib3 (19) were sibling-sitting while our parents were out of town for the weekend. When Sib 3 scored tickets from (I believe) the proverbial friend of a friend they decided their only recourse was to take me and Sib 4 (13) along. I remember enjoying it immensely but couldn't tell you how that delight broke down into: the music, the crowd, hanging with the sibs, and the almost certain contact high!

I don't THINK anyone ever 'fessed up to the 'rents!
that's a great story. *g*
Gad, you should sell this review to somebody. Rolling Stone?
Hee. All just part of the service...
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