Jethro Tull Live At Madison Square Garden 1978

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Tomorrow marks the release of the new Jethro Tull live CD/DVD set. From their Heavy Horses tour, the video and audio was recorded during a performance at New York’s famed Madison Square Garden and beamed around the world live via satellite. Something of an event in the days before satellite communications became so commonplace. In fact, the show had to be broken up into three segments due to the lack of broadcast time that was available on the satellite at the time, with the middle portion being shown on television.

The set consists of a single DVD and a single CD. The DVD includes just the audio for the first segment of the show which is comprised of three songs.

The middle portion of the show was televised and the resulting 50 or so minutes of video footage is included on the DVD. Eight songs are performed for the middle segment including hits like “Aqualung” and “Thick As A Brick.” Fans should not expect to see video footage presented in wide-screen “movie” format since the show was being shot for broadcast on television, and as we all know, there certainly was no HD in 1978.

The final segment on the DVD features the audio from three more songs, including “Cross Eyed Mary” and an encore of “Locomotive Breath.”Jethro Tull - Live At Madison Square Garden 1978 - cover art

I had not seen Jethro Tull perform live before this, but I can say without any hesitation that they were certainly not a boring group to watch. Ian Anderson’s energy is extraordinary, and I’m not quite sure the man stood still for a single second during the entire performance. There is little doubt that both Anderson and the rest of the group poured every ounce of energy and ability at their disposal into that show.

Although the group took liberties with the arrangements of some well-known material, as one might expect during a live show, none of the changes diminished the quality of the performance for me. As is typically the case, the frontman got the lion’s share of the face time, and although some of us might have appreciated a little bit more attention directed at some of the other musicians, that appears to be the nature of show business and is not unique to this recording.

As anyone who has read my reviews of live albums in the past will know, my main sticking point is always the sound. I freely admit I am a bit of an audio snob, and I am often disappointed with live albums due to the mix, the acoustics, the microphone placement or any number of other circumstances I might be find disagreeable.

I’m happy to report that the sound quality of this live set is quite good. Especially when one considers that it was recorded 31 years ago! Kudos to Robin Black and Peter Mew, two gentlemen who were responsible for the mixing of the original recording and the newer 5.1 Dolby and stereo mixes respectively. Those are the names that most fans probably never notice among all the others in the liner notes, but they contribute enormously to the quality of the finished product. It really is a superb live recording.

Although I’ve been a fan of Jethro Tull since the 1970’s, I’m not sure I ever listened as carefully to their arrangements as I might have before receiving this new set. Certain passages are almost fusion-like to my ears, and reveal an impressive quantity of talent on that stage that I may have never fully appreciated before.

The CD that accompanies the DVD contains all the audio material from the DVD with the exception of the encore performance of “Locomotive Breath” and a few short non-musical segments like band introductions and such.

Although it is probably obvious by now, I would not hesitate to recommend this set to any Jethro Tull fan. As rare as it may seem coming from me, the quality of this recording elevates its status to one that is worthy of listening to for the audio alone.

Ian Anderson is currently on tour here in the U.S. Having finished up for the remainder of this month with a show yesterday in Connecticut, he will next appear in Phoenix at the Dodge Theatre on November 3rd.

Thanks to the folks at EMI for the review copy of this recording. At the same time, I should also mention that I was not compensated in any way for this review beyond the review copy of the set that I received.

1 Comment

  1. jjk0091 October 20, 2009 at 6:32 am

    I have seen Tull several times and have never heard him sing Aqualung the way it was recorded. In fact everytime I have seen them Anderson’s version drifts further and further from the album. Don’t go to a Tull concert and expect to sing along.

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