He qualifies for a bus pass, needs vocal support and is not quite as sprightly around the stage these days, but Ian Anderson proves you’re never too old to rock ‘n’ roll, writes guest reviewer and Tull fan Geoff Cox.
The 66-year-old Jethro Tull frontman is on a UK tour coinciding with the recent release of his new studio album Homo Erraticus.
But although the voice, and the old bones, are starting to creak, the legendary prog pioneer still knows how to put on a show.
And before you ask, yes, he can still stand on one leg and play the flute at the same time!
I was one of the loyal fans – I’ve followed Tull since their early days when Anderson lived in a Luton bedsit and was a cleaner at a local cinema – in the audience at The Wycombe Swan Theatre, for last night’s show.
It was a case of ‘spot the under 40s’ in a crowd who turned up unsure whether this was a Jethro Tull or an Ian Anderson gig.
What we got was something old and something very new, with Home Erraticus performed in its entirety before the interval and a selection of Tull classics in the second half of the show.
In 1972 Jethro Tull released iconic concept album, Thick As A Brick, based on a poem by “child prodigy Gerald Bostock”.
In 2012, as fans wondered what happened to Bostock, Anderson explored the different paths his life might have taken in Thick As A Brick 2.
With Homo Erraticus enfant prodigy Gerald is back after a remarkable career in the imagination of his creator.
Following a 40-year political career, Bostock reunited with the singer taking the role of tour manager on a string of shows.
Homo Erraticus marks his return to songwriting and it’s based on an unpublished manuscript by amateur historian “Ernest T. Parritt (1865-1928)”.
Parritt examines key events of British history with a string of prophecies stretching to the current day and the future.
I’ve seen Tull perform live several times and this was all rather strange, even though I’d listened to the album on the way to the theatre to get me in the mood.
Performing a new album on stage right the way through is a huge gamble, but it was warmly received by the audience.
The temperature was raised even further when the second half opened with probably the most famous Tull song of all, Living In The Past.
This is what we were really here for and the band followed it up with a series of old favourites, like Sweet Dream, Songs From The Wood, Teacher, My God and Farm On The Freeway.
And no Tull show would be complete without the instrumental Bouree and rip-roaring Locomotive Breath, which was played as an encore.
There was no Martin Barre, the group’s lead guitarist for many years, this time and the only familiar face in Anderson’s line-up was Dave Goodier on bass guitar.
Young Ryan O’Donnell’s additional vocals were excellent and you couldn’t fault the musicianship of Florian Opahle on electric guitar, John O’Hara (piano, keyboards, accordion) and Scott Hammond (drums).
A backdrop of video and theatrics, plus Anderson’s trademark banter between songs, made it a great night for Tull followers.
Anderson points out that the man who invented the seed drill in 1701 comes up third in a Google search for ‘Jethro Tull’ and rates but a brief, single page in Wikipedia.
“He’s your Jethro man, not I,” says Anderson.
“I think I prefer, in my twilight years, to use my own name for the most part being composer of virtually all Tull songs since 1968.
“After all, being named after a real-life historical character of no little importance is a bit weird, to say the least.”
So that probably answers the question. This is an Anderson show, not a Jethro Tull one.
The tour continues in Guildford, Cambridge, Ipswich, Leicester, Derby, Manchester, York and Gateshead before four concerts in Anderson’s native Scotland and two at the Shepherds Bush Empire in London on May 24 and 25.