Jethro Tull in Concert at the North Shore Theater
Beverly, Massachusetts - August 25, 2001
Feeling the aftermath of a long trip and an extended night out, I can now look back and honestly say that it was worth feeling tired the next day. I have wanted to see Jethro Tull since the release of "War Child," which seems like yesterday even though it has been almost twenty five years since that landmark album was released. Jethro Tull have been together since 1968 and here we are in 2001 and the group's two mainstays, Ian Anderson (lead vocals, flute, guitar) and Martin Barre (lead guitar), are still touring and making albums. A younger supporting cast now surrounds the two elder statesmen of rock n roll. Doane Perry (drums), Andy Giddings (keyboards) and Jonathan Noyce (bass) are the other members that make up the Tull juggernaut.
The night started out with an opening act to which the crowd warmed up to quite quickly. Willie Porter stepped onto the stage with his acoustic guitar and played and sang his heart out. He worked the crowd very well. There was plenty of energy and everyone was having a good time. This audience really liked to interact with the performers, something that was easy to do due to the theater's 2,200 person capacity, creating a nice intimate circle. The stage continually spins around so everyone gets a bird's eye view of the act all night long. Willie was very entertaining and quite funny. He played a smokin' acoustic guitar. It's not an easy task to get in front of a crowd with you and your guitar, especially when everyone is waiting in anticipation for the star attraction. Nevertheless, he was a good sport and genuinely appreciative of the audience's reaction to his music. He could have done an encore, but it just doesn't happen if you're an opening act.
There was a fifteen-minute break and then the animated Ian Anderson lead the charge, with his band of merry blokes, onstage and everyone was ready for a rockin' evening of Jethro Tull. After the first song, Ian explained how he was recently invited to the annual folk festival in England and fell and hurt his leg. He said, "It couldn't have happened at something manly like a Metallic concert, it had to be a fucking folk festival!" His dry wit was much to the delight of the crowd. You could tell he was hurting as he made his way around the stage, yet he continued to perform as only Ian could. He raised his leg and propped it up against the other and played that flute like a true minstrel in the gallery. Gone are the days of throwing the flute in the air and all the acrobatics. I have to give the guy credit he still has incredible energy. He waves his arms about and moves around all the over the stage like a man twenty years younger. At the end of every song, Ian is left standing in various positions with his patented stare into the crowd, then the lights go off and the next song begins.
Some of the highlights of the evening were from the album, "Thick as a Brick," were Ian took the opportunity to scoff at the fact that it was labeled a concept album thus anointing the group as a progressive rock band. I took it as a hint that he felt that the group was playing rock and roll in a different way, so people had a different interpretation of what they were doing. Once again, his wit and dry humor won over the crowd as they went full steam ahead into one their more famous tunes. What amazed me were the transitions they made in each song. A lot of their songs are rocking right along, then come to a dead stop and change pace. This, I feel, is what has always separated them from everyone else. This is one tight group.
The only member that is not animated is the bass player, Jonathan Noyce. He remained stoic all night but managed to look totally in control and very cool in his leathers. He plays a very strong role in the group's sound and follows the drummer, Doan Perry, very intently through each number.
The absolute zenith of the night was a song from the album, "Stand Up," called "A New Day Yesterday." The only ones on stage for between five and ten minutes to start the song were Martin Barre and Andy Giddings. Giddings waited patiently and smiled while Martin lets go into an amazing solo to rock the house. I wasn't familiar with the song or the album, so I had no idea what Barre was leading into. I looked at my friend and said, "I'll bet 'Aqualung' is coming," and he said, "or 'Locomotive Breath.'" Well, we were both wrong, those two songs would come later. About half way through the show, Ian preformed "The Secret Language of Birds" from his solo album. Everyone in the group came to the front of the stage with various forms of percussion while Ian played the flute and Giddings played the 'organ from hell,' as Ian put it, or the accordion. It was a light and airy world music number that was very good and a real departure from the entire evening. The encore was brilliant. "Locomotive Breath" and "Living in the Past" closed out the show.
This was a night to remember. Jethro Tull is one the most enduring and talented rock bands on the earth and Ian Anderson is a dazzling and entertaining showman. Make sure you don't miss them if they come through your town. If you do, don't worry, they will be back again next year.
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