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If it's summertime, then it must mean Jethro Tull is coming. For the third year running, either the venerable British rock band or its age-defying frontman Ian Anderson is touching down at Ben-Gurion Airport for performances here, where they're still treated like the heroes they were in their '70s heyday.
On this run, promoter Yuri Leshev has booked three shows for the band - in Jerusalem on the 23rd, Binyamina the 24th, and a return performance in Caesarea on the 25th, following a triumphant 2005 show there. Last summer, Anderson returned sans band performing with the Ra'anana Symphony Orchestra.
Is there such a thing as too much of Tull? Leshev doesn't think so.
"Any good promoter should be asking himself those questions - will there be a general demand? There's always a lot of soul searching," he said. "All the indications tell us that we didn't make a mistake bringing them back for three shows. They were one of the most influential bands of the '70s, and progressive rock is making such a comeback now. So there's a demand for music of this caliber."
While the band permanently fell off the charts somewhere in the early '90s (and their unexpected Grammy for best heavy metal band in 1988 ahead of Metallica was treated as a bad joke), they've continued to be active - recording and performing with alarming regularity. Unlike most bands from the '70s who continue to tour, churning out the hits with increasing rigor mortis, a Tull performance is still a contemporary rock show mixing the old and the new. And Anderson, who's still accompanied by original Tull lead guitarist Martin Barre, is as energetic as he was as a 23-year-old manic flautist balancing on one leg.
With over 40 albums to their credit, the band can also boast box sets, live DVDs, and all the accouterment that comes with surviving so many decades in the rock and roll wars.
Russian immigrant Leshev, who has been promoting concerts in Israel for the last five years, says he's first and foremost a rock & roll fan - and Tull has always been a favorite.
"Growing up in the Soviet Union, discovering the early Jethro Tull records brightened up my schooldays. I was taken away by Anderson's flute and voice," he said.
"Any British band like that was huge in Russia in the '70s. In the past, I've promoted shows by '70s bands like Uriah Heep and Manfred Mann in order to satisfy the demands of Russian aliya. But Tull is not the same kind of band - I'm not promoting them for a Russian audience. They have a wider appeal and they were a bigger band. When they perform, it's a mostly local Israeli crowd," Leshev added.
Indeed, the previous Tull and Anderson shows in Israel drew a mixed crowd, who may have been drawn to the music from different origins, but all ended up in the same place.
"The band attracts several generations," explained Leshev. "There are people my age, in their forties and fifties, who would never miss a show, because the band always offers something new. They're aging very nicely. But strangely enough, there's also a lot of younger people at the shows who are fascinated by the music, but weren't born when Tull was big in the '70s."
Fans this time around are especially excited about the venues which are hosting Tull, most notably the Jerusalem show which is taking place in the vacant train station near the Khan Theater.
"I don't care if I have to stand for two hours, I wouldn't miss a Jethro Tull show in Jerusalem," said Talpiot resident Yaniv Berman.
According to Leshev, the pinnacle of his concert promotion career was last year's Anderson show with the Ra'anana Symphony.
"It was one of those shows that every promoter can only dream of. People in their sixties were sitting next to kids, and they were all enjoying the music and the show."
As for Anderson's proclivity to keep returning to Israel, "there's a prioritizing to go to interesting places," the singer recently told The Jerusalem Post.
He's so enamored with the country that he recently even came over on a private vacation and brought his wife for her first visit.
"I always wanted to take my wife to get a sense of the complexity of the Middle East. We spoke with taxi drivers, waiters, people of that sort," said Anderson, who turned 60 this month.
And for Leshev, who hosted the Andersons, it was another dream come true.
"For me it was a huge pleasure, to take him around and talk to him about his music as a fan, not a promoter," Leshev said.
Come this weekend, the pleasure will be Anderson's - and ours.