Jethro Tull, October 20th, 1999
Vredenburg, Utrecht, The Netherlands

By Jan Voorbij - Pictures by Hay Willemsen


Tiptoe Through The Tulips

It had been two years since Jethro Tull performed in the Vredenburg Music Theatre, a relatively small, intimate venue, with 2200 seats and near perfect acoustics. I went there early in the hope to meet webcomrade Jeroen ("Jeronimo") and his brother, which did happen actually and he turned out to be the nice guy I suspected he was from our contact on the web. We met several other Tull-fans who helped us kill the time while waiting before the doors opened.The air was full of expectation: everybody seemed to feel the same way one does when a school excursion or pick nick is about to start and the doors of the bus refuse to open. Apart from the many Dutch (of course), there were people from Poland, Belgium and Germany as well.

The supporting act was Michael de Jong - an American singer probably of Dutch descent regarding his name - who reminded me of Johnny Cash in his appearance. He came up, calmly plugged his accoustic guitar and treated us for an half hour with his own songs with subject matters taken from "life as it is in the US", in a bluesy fashion and sung with a hoarse voice. It struck me how good the audience was listening: there was hardly any yelling and Michael seemed to feel at home with us in Utrecht.

Then a short break followed, which gave me a chance to observe the audience: most of them being in their thirties or fourties (many beards and moustaches, an occasional long haired left-over hippy smoking pot), a few children (blessed with Tull-fan parents, to show them there is more to life than the Back Street Boys or Mariah Carey) and to a much lesser extent alas: youngsters. Generally spoken the Dutch Tull audience is a bit tame, undercooled perhaps, but that would change in the course of this concert.

After 15 minutes or so - which gave us some time to check merchandise and beer - the guys hit the stage. Ian wore a kind of pirate outfit making him look like a Willie Nelson without plaits and drinking problem. They opened with Steel Monkey which set the place alight. There were some audio problems and Ian had to change his microphone twice. But the sound was terrific. And guess what: the VOICE was back! (The last time he could hardly be heard....)
What then followed was sheer musical professionalism. For two hours the band played the same set as during the US leg of the tour, with the emphasis on the Stand Up songs and four DotCom songs. They sounded very tight and the overall sound quality was very good. Nevertheless, I would have appreciated if it would all have been a bit more spontaneous.

I noticed an important change when I compare this show to most of the ones I"ve seen in the past: this was not an Ian Anderson show, no: all the band members played a part in the performance, the humoristic parts and most of all in playing the music. More than ever they seem to perform more as a collective rather than a bunch of individual musicians. The band members were all focussed on in the course of the gig, offering them the occasion to show their talents and skills and to us: enjoying them. I didn't know Jon Noyce was such a humorous guy until I saw his mock fight with Andy over a microphone while performing Fat Man. Doane, up alone in his drum shop, really worked his tail of and I particularly enjoyed his variation in rhytms patterns during the different verses of the songs.

Once again he proved himself to be a worthy successor of Barrie Barlow. And than Martin: it really was his night. He played wonderful and was cheered for it of course. Two pieces of his last solo album "The Meeting" were slipped in and he really gave it all. He still plays a fair guitar solo but I think his main quality lies in the way his playing connects what all the others are doing.

It was a Tull concert as I remember them from the old days: the sheer fun of playing together and making it all work well affected the audience with all the waving, dancing and singing along that goes with it. As for Ian, our pirate bold, he seemed to have a good time but was a bit reserved when it comes to his famous stage banter. He kept it all short, making only a few witty remarks, e.g. he promised us that webmeister Andy would personally answer all our emails in the next 23 years. His flute-playing was magnificent, applying both the silver and the bamboo flute.

And when finally the balloons glided in I realized that once more this was a great "evening with Jethro Tull"; and why people still buy records, listen to the music, study the lyrics, exchange experiences, discuss Tull items, start Tull-websites ;-) , and wait (im)patiently and hopefully for the next Tull gig to happen in their country. For the band we saw tonight was not the "old" classic Tull from the late seventies, but a "new", late nineties classic Tull, fit to enter the next century.
This gig could have been the last one though, one never knows...

 

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