Concert Review: Jethro Tull

August 9 at the Train Station, Jerusalem.

Jethro Tull 311 (photo credit: Jodie Cohen Asaraf)
Jethro Tull 311
(photo credit: Jodie Cohen Asaraf)
Maybe they do it with mirrors, but each time veteran British band Jethro Tull come to Israel – and that’s three visits in the last seven years – they seem to get better and better.
Displaying the vim and vigor of a young man, ageless frontman Ian Anderson proved that he’s the Bruce Springsteen of the flute, a tireless and masterful showman and musician who can mesmerize an audience at will.
Revelling in their out of fashion “prog rock” universe, the precise five-piece band were as tight as a well-rehearsed orchestra, navigating complex instrumental passages, time changes and stop-on-a-dime musical maneuvers, all implemented with flair, excitement and a sense of adventure.
Even Anderson’s witty, scripted between-song utterings seemed fresh and original, even though he repeated some of the same introductions from his last visit to Israel. Despite getting knee deep in the boycott Israel controversy by posting a message on his Web site defending his decision to play here and then deciding to donate his proceeds from the three shows to three coexistence groups, Anderson never acknowledged the controversy or even mentioned Israel by name, preferring to stick to his well-oiled showbiz routines.
The only true spontaneity of the evening took place when native son Shlomo Gronich joined the band on piano for a spirited rendition of their early instrumental classic “Bouree.”
He then slightly overstayed his welcome for a piano/flute duet with Anderson that threatened to hijack the show. While there was pride in seeing the Sabra Gronich on stage with Anderson, there was likely a collective sigh of relief when, after leading an impromptu “Happy Birthday” for Anderson, he returned the spotlight to the reason why the Jerusalem audience had shown up in the first place.
Highlights among the hour and a half set are difficult to pinpoint, although an early pinnacle was a lilting version of “Life’s a Long Song,” which built from a delicate beginning to a swirling climax. The generous excerpts from the 1972 blockbuster Thick As a Brick also demonstrated the band’s immense versatility and agility. And, of course, the selections from the band’s signature album, including an elongated “My God,” a crowd-pleasing title song, and the singalong encore “Locomotive Breath” that miraculously encompassed a lighthearted klezmer interlude, only contributed to the feeling that a classic rock band was performing at the height of its power – a remarkable feat considering the band is over 40 years old.
The fact that Jethro Tull hasn’t been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a travesty of justice that needs to be corrected immediately.