40th Anniversary UK Tour
Wednesday, 9th April 2008
The Lowry, Salford, UK
Article By E O Davies
On a night of European Champions league glory for Manchester United just a mere half mile away, Jethro Tull were simultaneously producing their own performance of two halves. The first half a rather luck lustre affair: the second half a dynamic even inspirational performance spanning the years and belying Tull's veteran status. Such was the nature of the concert witnessed at The Lowry on Wednesday, 9th April 2008.
The proceedings began with a duo from Mostly Autumn. Bryan Josh was joined by Heather Findlay and played acoustic renditions of This Great Pearl and
Evergreen. They were joined by ¾ of Jethro Tull on a track from Passengers and by the fluent guitar lines of Martin Barre on a cut from their forthcoming new release. I was familiar with Pearl and Evergreen, the latter being my favourite Mostly Autumn track, however this performance was substantially below the standard expected from members of such a prestigious UK progressive rock band. These tracks rearranged for an acoustic rendition sounded weak and repetitive. The
Passengers track was equally insipid and the introduction of Ian Anderson on flute did little to raise it from average rock fare.
Anderson frankly looked disinterested and played from a reclined position on the drum rise. As a consequence his flute interventions seemed to lack substance and were substantially well below par.
The unrehearsed nature of this section of the concert was further revealed when Heather Findlay introduced the next song to be performed from their forthcoming album but ‘tonight featuring Jethro Tull's guitar player... total silence... she had forgotten Martin’s name ...Anderson subsequently took over and announced Martin Barre. Martin was received with polite applause and embellished the track with some tasty guitar work.
As soon as Bryan and Heather exited the stage ‘An Evening With Jethro Tull’ began.
No fanfare or elaborate stage introduction (as previously witnessed by the sweeping roadies of 1972, the wonderful Strange Avenues intro of 1989, or the personal introduction for each gig by Ian in 1995) was necessary. This was to be an evening with the emphasis on the music rather than showmanship.
The rhythm section of Perry and Goodier drew a cheer as they introduced Living In The Past and the songs from Tull's wonderful back catalogue just flowed and flowed. I particularly enjoyed One For John Gee performed live for the first time during this 40th anniversary tour. This track personified the enduring, genre breaking and eclectic nature of Tull’s music. Its inspired jazz like sound and structure allowed members of the ensemble the freedom to improvise and solo. Martin Barre's contribution in this piece emphasised his ability to play in a variety of genres and styles.
Despite a great selection of songs the first half was lacking. On reflection I am not sure exactly which ingredient did not quite gel. Maybe, it was the lack of a grand entrance, or Anderson's uncharacteristically weak flute on Serenade To A Cuckoo, or perhaps the sampled flutes during a blistering rendition of For A Thousand Mothers, or even the obtrusive backdrop of images and videos of Ian Anderson in his 20 something prime. These images compared with the stark reality of Ian in his dog eared years were a real distraction.
At any rate, the general consensus amongst the number of die hard Tull fans in the first few rows during the interval was that Tull were playing within themselves. The set was great, the performance was OK but...
This was however, a performance of two halves and the second half undoubtedly belonged to Tull.
The opening riff of Heavy Horses rang out and the show was underway once more. I enjoyed hearing a full version of this song which had not been played in its entirety for some years. Even the sampled violin accompaniment was fine. The sound was clear and Anderson's voice was surprisingly powerful as he lamented the demise of the Percheron. Backing vocals provided by David Goodier were slightly out of time but did not detract from the overall impact of the song.
A wonderful medley followed; of We Used To Know, Witches Promise and With You There To Help Me. Sections of music effortlessly segued into each other and the overall impression (despite some challenged vocals) was that this was some of the best Tull music ever. Special mention must be made of Martin Barre who in the second half of the show became increasingly energised. His playing on With You There To Help Me rolled back the years. He skilfully and faithfully recreated the sound of 1970 but added even greater emotive flair into the mix.
Dharma For One was simply outstanding. In this song Doane Perry was given ample opportunity to show what a capable player he is. The ensemble playing throughout the second half was brilliant and Dharma was memorable for this.
The show roared along towards its energy sapping conclusion of Locomotive Breath.
With a final flurry of No Way To Slow Down, Tull left the stage. No balloons, no Louis Armstrong outro, just a realisation that Tull had once again served up a memorable feast of high quality music and entertainment. I strongly recommend you see this unique band if you can, before they finally and inevitably call it a day.
Oh and for those interested in the score It was Man United 1 Roma 0
...and just half a mile away from Old Trafford the score was
Jethro Tull (0) 5 Doubters (0) 0
Opening act Mostly Autumn acoustic Bryan Josh, Heather Findlay
The Great Pearl
+ 2 other songs with Tull
Living In The Past
One For John
So Much Trouble,
Serenade To A Cuckoo
For a Thousand Mothers
A New Day Yesterday (inc Kelpie)
We Used To Know/Witches Promise/With You
There To Help Me
Dharma For One (with drum solo)
Farm On The Freeway
Thick As A Brick
Aqualung (standard version)
Jethro Tull Official Website
Mostly Autumn Official Website
DPRP Concert Review - Jethro Tull Acoustic Show - April 2007
DPRP Concert Review - Jethro Tull Electric Show - July 2007