Concert Review Archive

 

Ian Anderson - Solo Acoustic Tour

Sunday 4th September 2011
Gloucester Guildhall, Gloucester, UK

Article By Andy Read
Pictures courtesy of j-tull.com

Ian Anderson Four years after the release of the Best Of Acoustic Jethro Tull album and the acoustic Jethro Tull UK tour, the band's last founding member decided to take his own version onto the road.

This really should have been billed as "An evening in the company of Ian Anderson" as it was an opportunity to share anecdotes and get to know the man's full discography a little better.

Stripped down to the bare essentials, Ian was supported on stage by a band of two. John O'Hara contributed various pieces of percussion plus accordion and keyboards alongside long-standing solo collaborator German guitarist Florian Opahle. As well as his voice (spoken and sung) Ian sported a new plastic flute and his not-so-new mini six-stringer.

In promoting this series of concerts Anderson had said: "I've always wanted to go out in the UK with a small line-up, to play and to restructure the songs and music for a more intimate and personalised performance. After many years of performing in this way for radio broadcasts in the USA, it seems like fun to bring this approach to the UK fans, old and new, and to make them feel like they are in my living room for an impromptu family concert."

As the name suggests, The Guildhall in Gloucester was the former living room for the city's civic elders. Now a concert hall, gallery and cinema it holds around 300 seated fans, providing a cosy ambience. This show had sold out some time ago. There was an impressive number of younger people, especially sons and daughters with their (mainly) dads.

The set list was a heady mix of obscurities and classics with a few pieces from his solo works thrown amongst tracks from the 40 plus years of Jethro Tull. Both O'Hara and Ophale were given solo spots with a classical mood. Together it provided a great value two-part set that lasted for two hours. With the forthcoming 40th anniversary of the classic Aqualung there was a heavy emphasis on this period of the Tull back catalogue

Ian Anderson We kicked off, quite literally, with flute and accordion leading an up-tempo Boris (Yeltsin) Dancing. Just Trying To Be started life from the Aqualung sessions before appearing on Living In The Past, whilst the short Slipstream did actually make it onto the album, as did Up To Me which followed.

We had a glimpse of Ian's solo work with Set Aside, before one of the best moments from the show. Overture gave a welcome taste of Tull's next album. It was an instrumental in the style of the heavier Aqualung and Thick As A Brick material. According to Ian, the band will 'enter the recording studio later this year'.

Wond'ring Again was the original, longer song that morphed into Wond'ring Aloud from Aqualung. Florin's first solo spot was an impressive flamenco-inspired guitar piece called Andalini which he had apparently written at the age of eight.

A story about Florin's first female breast-signing tour experience - all six of them - introduced Hare in the Wine Cup, before O'Hara had the chance to show his skills with an interpretation of JS Bach's Prelude in C Major. We entered the break with Bouree - Anderson describing it as 'a cruise ship rock cocktail version of Bach'.

He had intimated at the start of the show that he was finding it difficult to remain sat down for a whole live show and four decades of leaping around the stage was proving a hard habit to break. The stool had become less used as the first half went on. By the second half it had been relegated to the rear of the stage.

We opened Part Two with a story about Ian's first ever gig in Blackpool in 1964 and his less-than-complimentary thoughts about the town today. Up the Pool also came from the Aqualung sessions and recalls those youthful days.

The diversity continued with a poetry reading. From between the covers of a trout farming manual Ian gave us The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles.

Tull's ProgRock period brought Ian's thoughts on the 'excessive and quite regrettable' musical contributions of the likes of Genesis, Yes, ELP and King Crimson' from that time. "We also had our heads up our arses and for a short time it was quite cosy," he admitted as a prelude to 'The Poet And The Pauper' sequence from Thick As A Brick.

The bluesy Adrift and Dumbfounded, the folksy A Change Of Horses and a rocking Toccata and Fugue from Florien on a beautiful-sounding Gibson Les Paul added to the variety show.

The Les Paul was retained for one of my favourite Tull songs. From Crest Of A Knave, Budapest recalls an encounter with an eye-catching female Hungarian athlete who was serving sandwiches at a Tull gig. "It's a song of great respect. How you look and don't touch," insisted Anderson.

The high tempo was retained for the encores. A heavily rearranged and largely instrumental version of Aqualung was quite special and the trio ensured the show ended at full steam with another personal favourite, Locomotive Breath.

My reservations from the evening were threefold.

Firstly, in this bare essential format Ian's voice really does show the strains of four decades of heavy use. The opening few numbers were actually quite painful on the ear as he strained for the correct pitch. As his voice warmed up, it got much better. By the heavier numbers at end it was getting closer to business as usual.

Secondly, when you strip a band down to its bare essentials you need to approach the music from a fresh direction. Despite the promises of radically different arrangements, I found little difference to the full-band originals. The music was just missing lots of the normal elements.

Thirdly, 'sitting down' and 'music' only go together at home with a glass of wine and the headphones on. A sitting down live concert is a double oxymoron. As we waited for the show to begin, the lady sitting next to me brought in a cup of tea and popped in two sweeteners. It was only the fact that the guy on my other side was wearing a Caravan tour t-shirt that I knew I was in the right place. On the heavier numbers I really wanted to rock and roll with the music. Doing that whilst sitting down is a) uncomfortable and b) makes it look like you've got a bowel problem.

But overall it was a very interesting and enjoyable evening spent in the company of a true musical legend.

Anderson's solo tour continues across Scandinavia and Estonia in October with three special cathedral concerts in the UK in December. You will also be able to catch up with Ian next year when he will perform the classic concept album Thick as a Brick in its entirety for the first time since 1972. A world tour will commence in the UK in April and May. Then it's onto European countries in the late spring and summer before landing in the USA for two tours spanning September to early November. After that we might even get a new Jethro Tull album!

Setlist
Boris Dancing
Just Trying To Be
Slipstream
Up To Me
Set Aside
Overture
Wondering Again
Andantino
Hare In The Wine cup
Bach's Prelude in C Major
Bouree

Up The Pool
The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles
Thick As A Brick (The Poet & The Painter Sequence)
Adrift And Dumbfounded
A Change Of Horses
Bach's Toccata And Fugue
Budapest
Aqualung
Locomotive Breath

Links
Jethro Tull - Official Website

Gloucester Guildhall

 


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