Jethro Tull: The Rock Opera

Hechal Hatarbut, February 24

Ian Anderson (photo credit: PR)
Ian Anderson
(photo credit: PR)
Ian Anderson, the venerable front man of British rock stalwarts Jethro Tull, continues to find inventive ways to recycle the band’s impressive back catalogue. The last time the 68-year-old Anderson visited Israel in 2012 was to perform Tull’s 1972 concept album Thick as a Brick and introduce a new Part 2 to the mix.
This round, Anderson has penned a self-styled “rock opera” loosely based on the life of the band’s namesake, Jethro Tull, an 18th century agriculturist. “Rather than tell the story in some sort of historical pastiche, I thought it would be more fun to use many elements of his life and talk about today and tomorrow by repositioning Mr. Tullas as a biochemist working in the field of genetic modification and doing research in crop production and animal cloning,” Anderson told The Jerusalem Post last month.
Despite his lofty aspirations, I don’t think there was anyone in the audience who was able to pick out a story line. But that didn’t detract at all from the spectacle of the show, that combined Anderson’s versatile touring band, oversized actors and singers (including Anderson) on a huge screen backdrop, who provided taped transitions between the songs and traded off vocals with the live Anderson.
It may sound like a mess, but it proved to be highly enjoyable and multi-sensory. Cynics may say it was designed that way to take the focus away from Anderson, who has clearly lost some power and range to his easily identifiable vocals.
But visually, Anderson was his spry self, dashing from one side of the stage to another, interacting with his fellow band members and posing in his trademark one-legged perch as he continued to treat his numerous flute passages like they were electric guitar solos.
Many of the best-loved vintage Tull tunes were accounted for in tight, powerful versions, including “Aqualung,” “Wind Up,” “With You There” and “Locomotive Breath.” While the evening could have worked as a standard “greatest hits” revue, the addition of razzle dazzle turned it into an event that showed that Anderson was not only living in the past.