Living With The Past

Jethro Tull

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 have opted to spotlight the present incarnation of the band with a DVD (and companion CD) entitled 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 recent appearance 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 stands out as one of the more appealing retrospectives spanning their 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 each 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 line-up in terms of years served, Anderson's prediction of giving it another ten years doesn't seem that 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. 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 yet two other acts -- Fairport Convention and Uriah Heep -- for a number. Something in the air indicates that we can expect more DVDs from Tull before they're put out to pasture.

~ Shawn Perry

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