Jethro Tull slays a sold-out crowd in Vancouver with help from “Michael Jackson’s dad”

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By Steve Newton

If there is one thing people have come to expect from a Jethro Tull concert, it’s a cleverly staged, highly theatrical show. If there are two things, they’d be the theatrics and the British rock pioneers’ enormous repertoire of classic tunes. And if there are three things, they’d be the theatrics, the tunes, and the unbeatable musicianship of guitarist Martin Barre, bassist Dave Pegg, and keyboardist Martin Alcock. When the band goes three-for-three on those points, you’ve got yourself a great show.

And when it delivers them with a magical charm—as it did at the Orpheum last Tuesday (December 10)—you’ve got something even better.

On a stage constructed to resemble the interior of a quaint restaurant—with rustic brickwork, candle-lit tables, and a partially stocked bar—a number of roadies-cum-waiters scurried about, tending to the whims of singer/flutist Ian Anderson as he and his band kicked into the opening tune, “Cross-Eyed Mary”.

They followed quickly with another Tull fave, “Living in the Past”, and it was obvious that leader Anderson—dressed in multi-coloured vest, skin-tight jeans, and black hunting boots—had not lost any of his powerful presence since Tull’s last Vancouver appearance, in the mid-’80s. Between breathy gasps on his instrument he flailed about, kicking gracefully or hunching over and prowling like a lunatic elf.

“Very good to see you again!” he told the sold-out crowd, then added in his quirky style: “It is you, isn’t it?” Ever the refined sort, Anderson’s typical response to the crowd’s enthusiasm was, “Thank you enormously; you’re too kind,” although he wasn’t above baser comments, like the one about heavy-duty enemas that came at the expense of bassist Pegg.

As if they knew which number was approaching, several fans surged to the front of the stage during the song before Tull’s best-known tune, “Aqualung”, and in an uncharacteristic show of anger, non-smoker Anderson threatened to go down and kick the stuffing out of one of them unless he put his cigarette out.

But Anderson stayed on-stage, and the show climaxed with “Locomotive Breath”, before Anderson departed with the words: “And from me, Michael Jackson’s dad, see you next time.”


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