Living With The Past
With over 3,000 concerts, some three dozen albums, and almost as many musicians, Jethro Tull is more than worthy of a comprehensive visual documentary. Never one to tackle anything in the traditional manner, Ian Anderson and company opted to spotlight the band from 2000 with a DVD and companion CD. Originally released in 2002, Eagle Vision has bundled the CD and DVD together and reissued a special 'Collectors Edition' of the aptly titled Living With The Past.
Along with a few side trips, interviews with all five players, and plenty of bonus features, the DVD comprises mostly concert footage from a 2001 concert at London's Hammersmith Apollo Theatre. Anderson also reunites with the original 1968 line-up for a couple of numbers. While there have been a variety of unique spins on Tull's extensive catalog — from cigar box sets to a little light music— this set stands out as one of the more appealing retrospectives spanning Tull's long and renowned career.
The truth of the matter is Jethro Tull have such a rich history that it would prove nearly impossible to tell their story over the course of a single DVD. Stacked alongside previous Tull videos — 20 Years Of Jethro Tull, 25th Anniversary Video, and Slipstream — Living With The Past takes a more unorthodox approach to portraying the band. Instead of miring in a thick past, there's a strong focus on the present with a glimpse into the future. Anderson, guitarist Martin Barre, drummer Doane Perry, keyboardist Andrew Giddings, and bassist Jonathan Noyce elaborate on their roles in Tull. Together, they play a wide selection of classics such as "Aqualung" and "Thick As A Brick," as well as more recent material like "Roots To Branches" and "Hunt By Numbers." As the most stable lineup in terms of years served, Anderson's prediction of giving it another 10 years doesn't seem unlikely. Amid some useless MTV effects, the concert footage efficiently demonstrates the players' potential for longevity. Even though the audiences have diminished, they thrive on their chops while Anderson abounds in his role as the quick witted, wild-eyed, flute-playing front man.
Anderson indulges even further with the visual form by staging some rather unique sequences. He teams up with guitarist Mick Abraham, bassist Glenn Cornick, and drummer Clive Bunker — the original Jethro Tull — in Kelly's, a small pub in England, for a low key, blues-based set of "Someday The Sun Won't Shine For You" and "A Song For Jeffrey" (and a version of "My Sunday Feeling" that can be found in the Extra Features section). Somehow it makes the concept of Jethro Tull as a band a much more valid idea in light of Anderson's dominant presence. Still, the lead Tullster grabs the spotlight when he sets up shop in his living room and invites a string quartet and present Tull keyboardist Giddings for a little grazing in the country. What else can you say — songs like "Wond'ring Aloud" and "Life Is A Long Song" lend themselves to the very idea.
Having both the CD and DVD not only enhances the Jethro Tull experience visually and aurally — there's also a few variances thrown in to keep you on your toes. The CD scrambles the order of the songs from the DVD and includes a few extras like "Cheap Day Return," "Mother Goose," "Dot Com" and "Fat Man." The DVD's Extra Features section includes a photo gallery, additional interviews, outtakes, multiple camera angles, the tune with the '68 line-up, and Anderson performing some subservient extracurricular activities such as making a public announcement for Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and collaborating with Fairport Convention and Uriah Heep for a number each.
~ Shawn Perry