Jack In The Green:
Live In Germany
Ian Anderson once told me music DVDs do not traditionally generate a whole lot of revenue. Even so, fans are lapping up every frame of rare footage from their favorite bands, and Jethro Tull is no exception. Trailing on the coattails of Tull’s Live At Montreux 2003, along with their legendary performance at 1970’s Isle Of Wight, Jack In The Green is a unique collection of live clips from Germany. Spanning 23 years, this DVD is a must-have for any Jethro Tull fan.
The disc starts off with nine songs from 1982’s Rockpop In Concert, where the group opens with two tracks from their new album at the time, the oft-neglected The Broadsword And The Beast. Here, Anderson and company desperately try to fit in with the changing tide of the 80s by smoothing over their arrangements and forgoing John Evan’s masterful piano with Peter-John Vettesse's synthesizers. Reaction is decidedly mixed to the newer material, and the band invariably fall back on “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath” to remind the audience of Tull’s potent legacy.
Fast-forward to a RockSummer clip and the group lays down a decent rendition of “Hunting Girl” from the pastoral Songs From The Word. Along with four more from Out In The Green, 1986 clearly found the band in a state of transitory reinvention before they recorded the Grammy-winning Crest Of A Knave. For the latter, however, they weren't about to abandon the muscle of “Thick As A Brick” or “Too Old To Rock N’ Roll, Too Young To Die” — both of which registered high marks with the Germans.
Seven years later, on Live In Germany from 1993, Tull is still grinding it out, this time for what looks like a dinner crowd. Of course, by then, the group had become more of a touring outfit than a recording band, content to dazzle their fans with rock-sharp versions of oldies but moldies like “My Sunday Feeling.” More to point, their presentation of Brownie McGhee’s “So Much Trouble” (with Dave Pegg and Andrew Giddings dressed as miners and plucking acoustics) does wonders to underscore Tull's twisted sense of humor running alongside a time-honored tribute to their roots.
Perhaps the most fascinating segment on the DVD is a pair of tunes from 1970 and 1971 appearances on The Beat Club. Of course, the group had yet to hit their mid 70s stride they continued to evolve and mature. Evan gets in his licks on “With You There To Help Me” from Benefit. The band’s chemistry rises and falls on “Nothing Is Easy,” as Anderson stops the other players during the song’s introduction. They then restart the song, but after a couple of minutes, Anderson stops again and gracefully exits the stage. Just goes to show that even a group like Jethro Tull has bad days.
While Jack In The Green isn’t exactly mind-blowing (it would take a full show from the mid 70s to do that), it offers yet another view of the world’s most unique and misunderstood band. Plumped up with liner notes from famed German promoter Fritz Rau, Anderson and über fan Michael Ostendorf, the DVD confirms that 40 years of Jethro Tull is not to be taken lightly in this day and age of fly-by-night American Idols and other disposable entertainment options.
~ Shawn Perry