It amazes me how, generally, the reaction to Ian Anderson’s latest opus is warm, and welcoming. There seems to be a lack of critical faculty in some quarters. Perhaps, in my case, I’m just too old to rock ‘n’ roll. But that may also apply to Anderson who seems to be treading some water these days musically although his energy tonight did belie his advancing years.
The live show of course is something else but the increased vocal and West End theatrics of Ryan O’Donnell (which intrude on the album) are frankly distracting. Although this time we were spared the sight of Gavin Esler in a wetsuit.
As you would expect the musical prowess on show is impressive but there’s always a feeling of old fields being tilled. There is inevitably a greater emphasis with ‘Homo’ on wordplay and lyrical content and, arguably, this doesn’t allow the music to breathe. Too many too short songs and no rocking out.
Full marks though for showcasing the new album in its entirety which shows supreme confidence although I would imagine that many in the audience were a little blindsided and therefore awaited the second half with some urgency.
It was performed immaculately with appropriate visuals and with more impact than listening to the album. It became almost a musical in execution but as with many musicals they are frequently patchy, sometimes too long and over-complicated, and with only a handful of really standout songs.
Forty years ago I am sure ‘Homo’ would have been suitably revered as a classic and, if it had followed the original Thick As A Brick rather than A Passion Play, would have silenced the critics.
It is only when in the second half Anderson and the band crank into the Tull back catalogue that balance is restored – not quite no holds barred, but it’s engrossing nevertheless. This greatest hits reminded us of a time when the band were truly memorable and when Martin ‘Lancelot’ Barre played the guitar. However, on the impressively synched archive video he has been seemingly air-brushed out of the history, although in truth so have the rest of the band.
The exchange of verses between O’Donnell and Anderson remained the only distraction (coupled with the former’s West End delivery), evidently a device to rest the latter’s voice but – as in the first half (and the last tour) – just as irritating.
Otherwise we got surprisingly powerful renditions that only scraped the surface of the legacy, including a fine ‘With You There To Help Me’, ‘Teacher’, and ‘Farm On The Freeway’ reminding us of that excellent 1987 album ‘Crest Of A Knave.’
’Aqualung’ and ‘Locomotive Breath’ sent the crowd home happy but aren’t quite right without the loyal ‘Lancelot’. If this was a gig of two halves, Jethro Tull was a sum of its constituent parts. Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson on the other hand is a conundrum. Where does he go from here?
Review by David Randall
David Randall presents ‘Assume The Position’ on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio every Sunday at 22:00 GMT.
1. Doggerland 2. Heavy Metals 3. Enter the Uninvited 4. Puer Ferox Adventus 5. Meliora Sequamur 6. The Turnpike Inn 7. The Engineer 8. The Pax Britannica 9. Tripudium Ad Bellum 10. After These Wars 11. New Blood, Old Veins 12. In For A Pound 13. The Browning of the Green 14. Perrrationes Ad Astra 15. Cold Dead Reckoning
16. Living In The Past 17. Bourée 18. Sweet Dream 19. Teacher 20. With You There to Help Me 21. A Passion Play 22. Too Old To Rock ‘n’ Roll: Too Young To Die 23. Songs From The Wood 24. Farm On The Freeway 25. My God 26. Aqualung
Encore: 27. Locomotive Breath
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