In the midst of releasing and preparing to tour behind his 2014 solo album Homo Erraticus, Ian Anderson reaches back to the previous two years with Thick As A Brick – Live In Iceland on CD, DVD and Blu-ray Disc. The show comprises complete live performances of Jethro Tull’s Thick As A Brick, released in 1972, and 2012’s Thick As A Brick 2: Whatever Happened To Gerald Bostock?, an Ian Anderson solo albums very much in the spirit of Jethro Tull. Billed as the complete story of Gerald Bostock, Anderson and his incredible band deliver a superb concert with theatrical flair.
Having seen this show live twice, it was a treat to see it again in high definition. The musicians, dressed as roadies donning newsboy berets and trench coats, makes way for a video featuring Anderson as a village doctor speaking with the unseen Gerald Bostock. “Tell me Gerald…you really did mind…” and with that, we segue to Anderson strumming his acoustic, singing “Really don’t mind…” From there, the piece lifts off. Bassist David Goodier and keyboardist John O’Hara, who have also been with Jethro Tull since 2007, are joined by drummer Scott Hammond and guitarist Florian Opahle. Ryan O’Donnell sings along with Anderson, trades verses, and functions as sort of a visual mime during the instrumental passages. Seeing him live was a shock, but seeing him interact with the band on the Blu-ray casts him in a much more fulfilling role.
Thick As A Brick and Thick As A Brick 2 could get by on their own, but together they bring to light Anderson’s extraordinary abilities as a musician, songwriter and storyteller, even if the story is a bit difficult to follow. A sideshow skit involving two audience members and a prostate exam only added to the absurdity, which is what gives the whole piece its humor. Even the famous lost, landward scuba diver shows up behind violinist Anna Phoebe during an onscreen, onstage Skype call. When I saw the show in Long Beach, California, Anderson and his band encored with Jethro Tull’s “Locomotive Breath.” On Thick As A Brick – Live In Iceland, there is no encore, perhaps yet another sign that Anderson is distancing himself from the Jethro Tull name (despite the fact that Jethro Tull precedes the singer’s name on the artwork).
Fortunately, the bonus material makes up for the lost encore. There’s an insightful interview with Anderson in Iceland; footage of Anderson, his band, and Montreux Jazz Festival Claude Nobs jamming on “Someday The Sun Won’t Shine For You,” from Jethro Tull’s 1968 This Was; and a chunk of Thick As A Brick 2 from an appearance at the Montreux Jazz Festival 2012. Call it Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull, or all of the above. You throw in Homo Erraticus, the reissued A Passion Play, and Thick As A Brick – Live In Iceland, and you’re in no danger of suffering from Tullian withdrawals any time soon.
~ Shawn Perry