Jethro Tull

November 19, 2004
Palace Theatre
Albany, New York

Review by Dave Gardiner
Photos by Stan Johnson

The evening was cool -- typical of late autumn in Albany. Signs of the holiday season were starting show up in and around the city. With an overpowering aura of Yuletide spirit in the air, Jethro Tull showed up at the Palace for a sold-out performance and showcased several songs from last year’s The Jethro Tull Christmas Album, as well as other tunes from their songbook ringing with seasonal themes like “Skating Away On The Thin Ice Of The New Day” during an incredible acoustic set that opened the show.

I was living in the past, listening to a heartbreaking version of “Life’s A Long Song,” which transcended me back in time. To say the members of Jethro Tull are simply accomplished musicians is an understatement. They are truly a gifted ensemble, with each player ably contributing his part to create a unique and classic sound. All the more exhilarating is the Palace Theatre itself -- a perfect venue for a Tull concert, newly restored with rich detail. Needless to say, the complex nature of the music blended in well with the intricate surroundings.

My Jethro Tull experience began early on during my teen years. I remember seeing a copy of Stand Up in the record bin. I was impressed with the cover art by J. Grashow. At the time, I couldn't afford to buy it and hadn't heard anything by them anyway. But I soon discovered This Was in a friend’s collection. “My Sunday Feeling” was the first Jethro Tull song I ever heard. When it showed up during the band's set at the Palace show, I felt like my connection with Jethro Tull had come full circle.

I bought Benefit and dug it so much I had to pick up Stand Up. This is the record with a gatefold that opens like a greeting card with a cutout of the band popping up amongst more trippy artwork. It remains one of my favorite albums. At the Palace, Tull put a new spin on an old tune from Stand Up -- J.S. Bach’s “Bourée.” The song also appears on The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. It undoubtedly added a tasty classical touch to the show.

Of course, most of the songs from Aqualung have sustained the test of time and retain a heavy presence in Tull’s repertoire. The Palace was packed to the rafters and it exploded when the band fell into “Cross-Eyed Mary,” “Hymn 43,” “My God,” “Wind-Up,” “Locomotive Breath,” and, of course, the song itself, “Aqualung.” It’s as if they are obligated to cover at least half the album, which sits just fine with me.

I first saw Jethro Tull at the Ottawa War Memorial for the Thick As A Brick tour. Watching the band play the album in its entirety made for an interesting blend of music and stage theatrics. The guitar parts were beautifully executed by Martin Barre, while Anderson fronted the band with an eerie mystique. The image of his long hair and beard, balancing on one leg during flute solos often results in people mistaking Anderson for Jethro Tull himself.

But Tull has always been a band. During my first show I was up front and center after waiting outside the venue since early afternoon with a bunch of Tull freaks. Simply put, that night in Canada was magical. I bought the Thick As A Brick album when I returned home and once again fell in love with the record jacket, which is done up in the guise of a newspaper called The St. Cleve Chronicle. I especially like the bit with Angela de Groot.

In September 1973, I caught a show during the Passion Play tour where the band, once again, performed the album in its entirety. The musicians took on roles from the piece’s loosely based storyline. Martin Barre played the part of a projectionist called Derek Small (a name later lifted by Spinal Tap), while Anderson took on the part of Mark Ridley.

The performance at the Palace also included songs from their entire career such as “Jack- In-The-Green” from Songs From The Wood and “Weathercock” from Heavy Horses, both of which also appear on The Jethro Tull Christmas Album. Sticking with the holiday theme, Tull then played “We Five Kings,” putting me in a festive mood. “Rupi's Dance,” the title track from Anderson's most recent solo record, was also rolled out.

Andrew Giddings, on keyboards and “the squeezy thing” during some numbers, is clearly happy at his post, playing the songs and perfectly recreating the parts of various Tull favorites. Because the music is complex, it takes a good drummer to keep time. That job belongs to Doane Perry, who has been with Tull for nearly 20 years. Bassist Jonathan Noyce, the band’s newest member, contributes a solid bottom end when the music gets heavy and plays melodically when the music gets light. He also plays some basic percussion during the acoustic segment of the show.

Martin Barre plays a variety of guitars. Promoting his excellent Stage Left album, Barre launched into some amazing guitar antics, and proved himself to be the perfect foil to Anderson's shenanigans.

Finally, we have the incomparable Ian Anderson. A truly unique talent and producer of the Jethro Tull catalog for the past 35 years, Anderson isn’t short of ambition. I can't thank him enough for being the mainstay in one of my favorite bands.

It had been nearly 20 years since the Passion Play tour when I experienced A Little Light Music at the Palace on October 7, 1992. I realized that Jethro Tull was still a great live act. Four years later, during the Aqualung 25th Anniversary tour, I caught the band again, this time with Emerson Lake and Palmer in San Diego.

On August 27, 2002, I took my son to see Tull at the Oneida Indian Nation's Turning Stone Casino. He was 16, the same age I was when I attended my first Tull show. The set was quite a bit different from when I first saw them. Since then, of course, I've seen the band numerous times. I’m also proud to say I have every one of their albums. After their show at the Palace, I realized Jethro Tull are a true vintage rock group that seem to get better with age.

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