Story by Scott Smith (photo courtesy of Ian Anderson)
Like veteran peers The Who, Roger Waters, Yes, Deep Purple and Rush, Jethro Tull founder-singer-flute player Ian Anderson still has all of the on-stage goods.
A lively Anderson led his stellar solo band through a back-to-back reading of Jethro Tull’s “Thick as a Brick” album from 1972 and Anderson’s recent solo album, “Thick as a Brick 2” on Oct. 25 at The Joint inside the Tulsa Hard Rock. Anderson’s gifted prog-rockers included lead guitarist Florian Opahle, bassist David Goodier, keyboardist John O’Hara, singer Ryan O’Donnell and drummer Scott Hammond, and they gleefully jumped into the sonic deep end, tackling the material’s complex, bending passages and arrangements with a relaxed ease. The delivery was punchy and tight — extremely tight — yet left room for that much-needed, rock edge.
Anderson rotated between his flute and one of the greatest-sounding acoustic guitars ever. Often standing in his trademark style — on one leg — Anderson first appeared with guitar before reaching for his flute. When he first pulled the silver, shiny flute into view, the audience roared with approval.
Although anticipation was rightfully at a high level at the Tulsa show — Anderson’s merch crew sold a ton of T-shirts that night — a couple fans revealed pre-show bouts with hesitation. Before curtain time, friends Matt Christian and Pat Door discussed what Anderson’s set list might include.
“I’ve read where Ian only does ‘Locomotive Breath’ as the encore,” said Dorr. “Ian plays for an hour and 40 minutes straight, with no break, but there’s no ‘Bungle in the Jungle’ or ‘Aqualung.'”
“Yeah, but it’ll still be a good show,” Christian added with a smile.
Following an energetic, note-perfect reading of the two “Brick” albums, Anderson and crew returned to the stage for “Aqualung,” which often darted away in style and sound from its original, studio incarnation but remained impressive. Several minutes later, an excellent reading of “Locomotive Breath” steamed its way through the crystal-clear sound system, keeping the near-capacity crowd cheering, clapping and whistling.
Anderson’s sense of humor telegraphed itself numerous times via pre-recorded. big-screen footage, where Anderson took on Monty Python-esque characters, urging concert-goers to heed his yard’s yellow “cat-crossing” sign so they won’t be trampled by a kitten or wandering, tail-wagging dog.
Sure, long-time Jethro Tull fans will miss the pioneering work of Tull’s Martin Barre (guitar) and Dave Pegg (bass) at these new shows, but Anderson’s stamina and genuine affection for the audience on the new tour fills in that gap nicely. Even if Tull never tours again, Anderson’s “Thick as a Brick 1 & 2 Tour” most definitely will make everyone not want to sit this one out.