Review: Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson in Concert

Combining new material and classics of old… Ian Anderson and band
16 May 2014 @ 3.58 pm
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Combining new material and classics of old… Ian Anderson and band
Combining new material and classics of old… Ian Anderson and band

Review: Ian Anderson In Concert
Venue: Grand Opera House, York, May 15, 2014

Ian Anderson returned to York last night to showcase his latest solo album Homo Erraticus. Many people won’t realise that the iconic rock flautist who played to a packed Grand Opera house has sold over 60 million records and was part of a band that in the Seventies was one of the biggest on the planet – sharing the stage with the likes of the Stones and Led Zeppelin.

Anderson first played in York with Jethro Tull on March 8, 1972 when they played their brand of bluesy folk rock to a crowd of students in the University Central Hall.

In circumstances stranger than fiction, there was a tepee on stage in which the members of the band made costume changes and during the gig Anderson took a phone call – which was a request for the owner of a horse to move it from out of the foyer as it was causing an obstruction!

The only horse action in York yesterday was at the Dante Festival on the Knavesmire, whilst at the Grand Opera House “Tullophiles” enjoyed an accomplished evening of music which included a complete rendition of the solo album and a host of Jethro Tull favourites after the interval.

When I interviewed Anderson a couple of months ago about the solo album he hinted that Jethro Tull as a band had run its course.

So anyone turning up expecting to hear the unique sound of Martin Barre on lead guitar may well have been disappointed had it not been for the virtuosity of Florian Opahle.

No one can recreate the unique Barre-Tull sound but Opahle shone through as a highly accomplished and technically proficient and versatile axeman.

His colleagues were equally adept and the band as a whole was tighter than the proverbial Yorkshireman’s purse-strings.

Anderson demonstrated that age had not withered his flute playing with several soaring solos that weaved their magic like days of old

It is however somewhat sorrowful that the once gloriously unique voice that propelled Tull to stardom in a bygone age has exited stage left and Anderson is now accompanied by in effect a backing singer, Ryan O’Donnell, who takes the higher registers, but who wanders the stage incongruously.

This wasn’t helped by some ineffectual mixing which didn’t bring O’Donnell’s vocals to the fore on several notable occasions.

The crowd though were willing to overlook these glitches and enjoy the overall performance of the band which was energetic and skilful.

The first half was applauded better than you would expect for any new album – where you assume that quite a few people will not have heard it, but given that this is the best work for quite a while from Anderson this was understandable.

The real affection was forthcoming in the second half though, as the greatest hits flowed forth mainly in chronological order from 1969 onwards.

Classics such as Living In The Past, Too Old To Rock And Roll and Aqualung were dispatched with aplomb as Anderson demonstrated that age had not withered his flute playing with several soaring solos that weaved their magic like days of old.

As the encore Locomotive Breath chugged along to its denouement, there was a sense that Ian Anderson still loves playing live as much as ever and still has much to give.

Who are we to deny this genuine rock godfather that chance in the coming years?



30 thoughts on “Review: Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson in Concert

  1. Ive seen ,Ian Anderson Jethro Tull 4 times live great performers each time different band members except for the guitar wiz Martin Barr but same high quality of music so im looking with excitment to lisen to the new band at the Brisbane show in Australia in december. Somehow my interest in rainforest trees can be connected to the intellegent lyrics and music of the band leader Ian Anderson that gave me something to think about. So moving on this is a musiclly evolutionly thing for Ian and im sure if your living in the past with his old band a change is like a breath of freash air. Their music will surelly play on Peter P.

  2. Went to the concert at the Palace Theater in Albany, NY. Ian is the man. From Bouree to Locamotive Breath, the memories just came flashing through my mind. One word AWESOME. When you coming back?

  3. We went to the concert on Wednesday night in RI. We had a great time and thought the concert was wonderful. I enjoyed the new music, and of course totally loved hearing our old favorites! Florian Opahle was so amazing. I was happy that Ian decided to utilize the additional singing help of Ryan O’Donnell. We all get old and I thought it was a good decision. It allowed us to hear some of our memories, without a cracking voice, that could no longer hold certain notes. I did not feel he was distant to the audience. I was in the third row and thought he was very engaging. We just had fun.

  4. Attended October 2014 concert in Minneapolis with 22 year old son, expecting the worst, after reading above reviews. First 5 songs were unintelligible and I wished I had printed out Homo Erraticus lyrics. Then began magical history tour with songs and videos from the 60’s. Ian can’t reach the high notes, though he strains to do so, with all the passion that a 67 year old esophageal cancer patient can. The crowd warmed to him as he pranced, wild eyed and handed off the high notes to his younger backup.
    He loves to perform, and he won my admiration and received standing ovations and calls for encores, during which I held two thumbs up. I would pay for 6th row seats again, in a heart beat.

  5. Went to the Seattle concert. I t was my 4th and last Anderson concert. Terrible first half. I could not understand a word he said, which made it painful to listen to. The back ground amateur hour film, would have been better served by putting the words of his songs up, so we knew what he was singing.
    Doesn’t this man get that when you have so many hits, and money, that you don’t have to jam new music, in its entirety, down our throats. Ian, I heard, you say once that Aqualung was not your definitive album. Your WRONG. and most people if polled would agree with me. Please stop your back up singer from roaming around like a gypsy minstrel. He is a good singer, but use him more discreetly.

  6. Saw Ian and the band in Midland, Texas on 9/24/14. This was my first time to see Anderson/Tull. I’d already been listening to Homo Erraticus for several weeks, so I was familiar with and enjoyed those songs. His voice held up through the playing of that portion of the show, but began to fail during the Tull portion. However, Ian’s outstanding performance on the flute made up for his inability to sing. Ryan O’Donnell, the surrogate singer, filled in nicely, but he was rather annoying as he wandered the stage trying to appear busy when he wasn’t singing.

    Concert-goers expecting the Ian Anderson of years gone by are sure to be disappointed, so tempering expectations is a good idea. I’m very grateful that I finally got to see the living legend Ian Anderson, as I’ve always considered him as one of my personal Rock Gods.

  7. We went to the Mary Hill concert this month. I was struck at how Mr. Anderson did not acknowledge the audience AT ALL. No thanks for the applause in the first half. It felt that the band was disconnected from us and was playing for themselves and the disjointed and annoying video. Very little showmanship.

    In addition, I was offended by the antiwar scenes in the video…Che Guevara morphing into Christ…or was that John Lennon morphing. There is no place in entertainment for pictures of bodies. Do not desecrate humans in their death for your personification and entertainment. Victims of war deserve more respect than to be part of a rock video!

    1. Lighten up Lou! Our “Mr. Anderson” was conveying to the audience his reflections on history, evolution and the lighter and darker sides of man. That is called music with intelligence — i.e. thought provoking.

      As for not acknowledging the audience, perhaps you were imbibing too much vino to appreciate the non-stop pace of MUSIC, storytelling and pure entertainment that the Homo Erraticus portion of the show provided. Really — you need to be thanked for clapping??

      1. You are correct, Fredo. There was no need to thank me for clapping because I did not clap, but others did clap. Common courtesy is to thank your audience.

        As for thought provoking, I found the concert to be simply provoking! Anderson, like many of his ilk, are big talkers but they are simply raking in the dough and doing nothing for or about those policies they disdain.

        You are partially correct about the vino but the problem is that I didn’t drink (or smoke) enough!

        1. Lou, do your research – like many of your ilk never do…

          In August 2010, the veteran British rock group Jethro Tull gave a round of concerts in Israel. Ian Anderson, the musical dynamo behind Tull, made an advance decision to donate all of his personal income from these concerts. “Having long maintained the position that culture and the arts should be free of political and religious censorship and a distance kept between them, I took a decision in February of 2009 that any future concerts in Israel by me or Jethro Tull would result in charitable donations to bodies representing the development of peaceful co-existence between Muslims, Jews and Christians, and the fostering of better Palestinian/Israeli relations.”

          Dividing his time between Jethro Tull, his solo work and his numerous business interests, Ian still finds time for charity work. After surviving deep vein thrombosis, he has been involved in several campaigns highlighting the disease. But it’s the chance to combine his love of performing music with giving something back to communities, such as the Salisbury Cathedral concert, that he embraces.

          In 2011 Ian Anderson created this wonderful PSA about the work he and Big Cat Rescue are doing to save exotic cats in the wild and to protect them from exploitation in captivity. “No, I think the proper place for those animals are in their natural habitat and not in zoos or private collections of wild animals, I don’t really like that kind of thing very much. That’s like taking me out of my environment and putting me in jail for the rest of my life.”

          “Cathedrals as buildings need support to survive, I fund these concerts myself, but they are as much for me as a performer as they are for the cause. To be able to play in such beautiful and historic surroundings is a real pleasure.”

          When I do my charitable concerts for instance in the cathedrals, I underwrite the event myself, I pay the bills so that, you know, the ticket money is all going to the charity. And that’s the only way it can make sense. Not only do I give my services for nothing but I actually pay all the bills, I pay for the sound and the lights and the hotels and the band and the crew and all the cost that are involved because if I don’t do it then this is got to come out of the ticket money and reduce dramatically the amount of money available for the charity. It’s my way of ensuring that we do make these things worthwhile, the way I do them.

          Sitting on my desk now is a begging letter from one of Britain’s better-known charities for the homeless. I’m constantly reminded when I sing the song “Aqualung” onstage every night that these things don’t go away. The plight of the homeless in your country and in mine is just as prevalent and upsetting as it was 40 years ago when I wrote that song.

      2. I really don’t think he was expecting to be THANKED, but acknowledged, like normal musicians do , completely different. He DID seem very disconnected from his audience, as if playing to a giant mirror! And the background video which ran CONTINUOUSLY through all the program was very pedantic, look it up Fredo, it means simple, or to stretch it out for you, simple minded, not thought provoking unless you are VERY slow to catch a simple concept! It was ridiculously repetitive, and yes, simple minded in ideas and production. In other words, cheap and stupid!

  8. I had the distinct pleasure to be at the Goldendale, WA (Portland, OR) show and it was fantastic. For the above ‘critics’ you knew what you were getting in to as this tour was clearly advertised as the ‘full Homo Erraticus’ as well as past JT hits. Secondly, Ian has clearly stated that JT is over and that he is creating new IA music and touring with it, as he did with TAAB2 last year. Some of you also seem to have amnesia when it comes to past JT tours, when often the band would play all or nearly all of their latest new material (MITG, SW, BATB come to mind). I personally would rather not hear the same hits year after year — the new HE material was fresh, non-stop prog rock entertainment! Ian was in fine voice for HE songs and having RyanO onboard to assist with the upper range vocals is not only enjoyable, but also a NECESSITY if we expect IA to continue to tour into his 70s!!

    …a VERY happy fan…as were my two twenty-something sons that appreciated a very professionally performed rock show.

  9. Sat through the Mesa Ikeda show, but it was tough. I’ve seen Tull/Anderson several times in the past. Based upon my past experiences I was very excited and highly anticipating a great show. My expectations were not met. First, Ian has lost his voice and has a young man sing for him much of the night. The entire first set was new material, backed by a repetitive loop of weird, amateurish slides. This went on for overan hour and nearly put me to sleep. The second set of HITS, fell flat and contained very few of the songs I expected to hear. I left extremely disappointed and sleepy!!

    1. Well — to say these reviews are mixed would be wishful thinking. Im heading to Austin tomorrow to see him perform at Austin City Limits ! Absolutely love JT and grew up listenining — hoping he works in a few classics –especially since Im driving three hours to get to the show.

    2. I guess that the HITS that were played like LITP, SftW, HH, Passion Play/Critique Oblique, TOtRaRTYtD, Aqualung, Locomotive Breath, Sweet Dream, etc. constitute ‘very few of the songs’ barrie expected to hear as HITS. Very few.

  10. I was disappointed at Friday nights concert in Seattle. The first hour was devoted entirely to the new “concept” album which didn’t leave a lot of room for the promised “Tull Classics”. Ian explains in the Homo Erraticus tour guide program why he chose certain classics for this tour – BUT – a full hour of the new material? Come on Ian – you have SO MANY great songs! You should have added more of the Jethro Tull classics for your fans to hear. There were video clips added throughout the show which was entertaining in spots – but I came to hear the LIVE MUSIC. Also – the Tull concert sound mix is usually great but the guitar was turned down too low for most of the songs (except Aqualung). The lighting was strange as well. I could only see performers standing in the shadows? While I applaud Ian for being a hard working musician – touring all over the world – now at the age of 66 – I hope that he would put some thought into bringing back more of the Jethro Tull favorites when planning his next tour.

    1. I saw him in Redding on the 15th and really enjoyed the show. If you did your homework you would have known that he was going to be playing “Homo Erraticus” straight through. If your going to the show you should check it out in advance, it’s a very good album and I enjoyed hearing him play it in it’s entirety. The set was tight and he has a fun and interesting video accompanying the entire show. Very worthwhile evening!

  11. WOW! worst concert EVER……saw him 5 years ago when he played all his hits . We were so impressed with him dancing around with all his usual well-known energy and talent and how he brought “extra” performers out for a soloist performance in the midst of all his hits! he does have ALOT of hits, and it took up a very generous 2 hours, with all the instruments of his albums, the herdie gurdi, and violins , etc.
    So, last year we saw him at a small venue locally for his Thick as a Brick album and we wished the concert had been shorter, still ok as concept concerts go, but would have chosen to do something else with the money we paid for the very expensive tickets!
    LAST NIGHT SUCKED! We all fell asleep in our row,(everyone admitted that in the 25 minute break between sets!) He was forgetful, band members came up to him and reminded him what the next song was to be half way through the intro….all the people that hadn’t left during the first half were looking forward to the second half at least being devoted to the “greatest hits” we were all promised when we bought the tickets, but NO , more snooze! The last song he played was “Aqualung”, which he left the stage with , and then for ONE encore song “Locomotive Breath” they left! TWO SONGS that were the greatest hits! EVERYONE leaving the theatre was mad! We would not have gone had we known it was for a concept album totally…all bands get their new stuff out there during a concert, but that’s not what everyone came for!!!! But it was like “I know you all want to hear my greatest hits, because that’s what you love, but I know best that my art is far more important that what ANY of you want, so I’m going to do THIS instead” He cared more for himself than he did his fans, so , here you go Ian, I don’t like you much anymore, and you are no longer one of my favorite bands, no loss to you as you didn’t care anyway, play to the mirror, your favorite fan, but there are more of us than you and an artist with his art in the garbage can I guess is still an artist, so go for it!

    1. I totally agree with you. I was at the Seattle show on 9/12, and it was one of the most disappointing concerts I’ve attended. I thought the promotion for the show was misleading and that the show itself was very self-indulgent. It appears that Mr. Anderson is far more concerned with entertaining himself than in pleasing his audience. It was basically as if I was held hostage for 15 songs, just to get to hear what we came for. I know this makes me sound old, but with his heavy accent, it was so hard to understand what he was singing that the new material might just as well have been in a foreign language. I’d advise you to save your money and wait until Jethro Tull tours again.

    2. At the Segerstrom Center watching the show and totally agree…self indulgent BS. Sooo much great stuff to choose from and he chooses to do new material you cannot even understand the lyrics . Sad situation …the dude is out of touch with his fan base.

    3. I admit the early part of the first set was grinding along, at least until I became aware of the progression through time. Time…A running theme through the whole concert. I was in 3rd row last night in Mesa AZ and all I can say is that I might have been bored if I had been up in the nosebleeds, but Ian’s incredible stage presence has not diminished over the years, while his voice certainly has. If the show was not for you, I understand, but for me and my companions, it was fantastic.

    4. And this was the opening concert for the U.S. tour, tickets for it were advertised in FEBRUARY as” Ian Andersons best of Jethro Tull”, when we bought our tickets, which sold out quickly. There was no opportunity to “preview” the concert, it was bought AS ADVERTISED as his greatest hits tour….we had the right to have the concert presented to us AS ADVERTISED, not changed at a whim after the show was booked.

    5. We have just been to the Auckland second show…it was cringe worthy…I was embarrassed for him….it would have been better if he had never attempted to sing at all…he couldn’t hold a note. It would have been better if he had let the young guy do the singing and stuck to playing the flute, at least he can still do that. Someone should tell him it’s time to call it a day and stop conning people out of their money…school kids could have done a better job at the footage they put up on the screen….felt like I was watching an amateur show at an old folks home. Couldn’t even sit right through it…..

      1. I was at the Auckland second show too. I have stopped taking such shows seriously these days – it was clear that the bulk of the concert was performed to a guide track – else how would the videos have synchronised so well? (Tell me someone!) So how much of what we heard was what we saw? Definitely a karaoke element in pursuit of “perfection” in performance.

        I had not seen Ian Anderson or sidemen before. I think it is wise that Ian is progressively passing lead vocals across to a younger colleague who actually sounds remarkably like Ian.
        Dawn you are absolutely right – Ryan O’Donnell could have taken more responsibility.

        This was not a highly satisfying performance but it was the chance to see the quirky and smart Ian Anderson in the flesh. Having said that, I see no reason to go again.

  12. My question is whether taking my 13 year old to this show will get him a proper into to Tull music. Comments?

    1. He’ll notice the wide variety of different genres.
      He will like it a lot, and will remember the concert
      forever !!

  13. Ian Anderson is and always has been Jethro Tull. They may as well have been called the Ian Anderson Band, given the man has composed and arranged the music and words to virtually every song they have ever done – among so many other things.

    All the bickering about band members past is ridiculous. I respect and admire most or all of them as they were fantastic musicians, but Ian was the man — and still is. I think its a shame he can’t carry the presumably licensed name for life, a la Sting, Bono, Madonna, etc.

  14. Mr “goldie,” why don’t you go back to the Shire and eat a nice pudding ? There’s a good lad then.

  15. Dont know what you were listening to but we had enough of this pretentious crap and left after 30 mins still think we stayed too long

  16. You can’t look back on the Barre/Tull days, life moves on. Anderson has produced many solo albums, all of which have been brilliant, eg. The Secret Language of Birds: Divinities: Rupi’s Dance to name but a few – this guy is amazing! and I thought the concert was brilliant, didn’t really matter who was backing him – they weren’t the main course (just the accompanying side dishes I’m afraid). He has a unique relationship with the flute and it certainly hasn’t diminished over the years, in fact the two have become one. One word: FABULOUS

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