Review by Carl Dziunka
Archive image by Stuart Blythe
You immediately get a sense that what you are about to see is going to be special when you turn up and the whole front of the venue is obscured by a mass of people eager to get the night started. The majority of the crowd are in the same age bracket and most likely have followed the progression of Jethro Tull across the 46 years they have been playing. There are only a few of the younger generation present and they have probably been brain washed over the years by parents who are avid Tull fans.
Once inside the stage is already set up to give a welcome to one of the mainstays of music that has covered a myriad of genres. The show starts in true Tull fashion with a projection on the back of the stage that shows Ian Anderson inside a Sanatorium being attended to by doctors who are the members of the band. This leads nicely into the band coming on stage and playing three tracks from the latest album “Homo Erraticus” (2014) which is ultimately an Ian Anderson solo album. Gone are all the Jethro Tull originals but the players that are backing Anderson on the current tour have filled the shoes very adequately. Guitarist Florian Opahle is the perfect replacement for the man who was Jethro Tulls second longest serving member, Martin Barre. He even plays a Sunburst Les Paul just as Barre did over the many years he graced the world’s stages.
After seducing the audience with new material, it was time to head back across the years to the material everyone knew and had come along to hear. It was time to bring out the story of Gerald Bostock which originated from the album “Thick as a Brick” (1972) and the band played the whole of part one. Then fast forwarding across the years, Anderson wondered what would have become of Bostock and he described five different scenarios which came out as “Thick as a Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock?” (2012). The scenario that was played to end part one of the show had Bostock as an Investment Banker in the song “Banker bets, Banker wins.”
The second half of the show took us on a journey across the years and showcased the Tull classics that were released when the band were at their peak. The songs rolled off the tongues of the Tull faithful as Anderson went through the likes of Aqualung, Songs from the Wood, A Passion Play, Sweet Dreams and Living in the past. Anderson’s voice has certainly been worked hard over his career and it is beginning to show but he now has a singing partner who relieves the stress of having to do a 2.5 hr. show on his own. Taking over a lot of the vocal duties was a young chap called Ryan O’Donnell who took on the role superbly. With O’Donnell and Anderson swapping vocal duties and projections of old Tull footage playing at the back of the stage, it was part theatre, part concert. Then again, when attending a Jethro Tull concert, you should never expect the norm. It’s just not going to happen.
When the band bid the loyal fans farewell, there was no way anyone was going anywhere. Surely they had enough stamina for one more song. They certainly did. Anderson finished the night with a crowd favourite, Locomotive Breath taken from the 1971 album “Aqualung.” As the band gave their bows, the appreciative crowd gave a well-deserved and a well-earned standing ovation. Jethro Tull had first toured Australia way back in 1972 and even 42 years later; the enthusiasm is as strong as ever. Anderson still has the signature moves while playing his flute. The arms are still going in every direction and he still plays while standing on one leg. That is the mark of a stayer and we hope he stays for many more years to come.
By Carl Dziunka
Artist: Ian Anderson
Venue: Palais Theatre, Melbourne
Date: December 15, 2014