Jethro Tull: Still Going Strong

Last Friday I had the great pleasure of seeing one of the greatest and most entertaining rock bands of the 70’s, Jethro Tull. That’s right, it is roughly fifty years after the formation of the band and Ian Anderson is still delivering his ear-pleasing and whimsical songs to audiences of all ages and musical interests. Although a lot of time has passed, their music, at least certain songs, have stood the test of time and remain as classics in the rock world.

The show was last Friday at an outdoor venue in the heart of the lavish Mizner Park located in Boca Raton, Florida where you can enjoy gourmet food, high-class shopping, and see some of the nicest vehicles on the market.

As I walked up to the entrance, the first chord had already been strummed, echoing among the shops and buildings, filling pedestrian’s ears with the full, biting sound emanating from the guitar. This was followed by an ear-piercing crash from the drummer, welcoming the rest of the band to join in. As soon as I stepped passed the security check point, a smile crept over face that would not fade until after the two-hour show was over.

I have personally loved Jethro Tull for as long as I could remember. Growing up, my dad exposed me to many incredible bands that not only shaped rock music in the future but also caused me to pursue a life in music. My dad grew up in New York where he had a lot of opportunities to see some of the most notable performances in history, including Wood Stock, Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of The Moon tour, and many Led Zeppelin and of course, Jethro Tull shows. No, he wasn’t British himself, but he became infatuated with the sheer musical talent that was coming from overseas. This is why those bands still remain as some of my all-time favorite bands, their talent is simply unmatched.

The first time I remember seeing a live concert video of Jethro Tull, the lead singer Ian Anderson came bounding on stage wearing an outlandish multi-colored coat, blanket thing with a Scottish style hat and sporting a burly beard. It was their 1978 Madison Square Garden concert. As their iconic tune “Thick as a Brick” commenced, Anderson is seen rather calmly strumming his guitar during the soft beginning verse. As the tune picks up, he starts dancing wildly on stage while simultaneously shooting the camera deranged looks. With booming drums, distorted guitar, and looming vocals, there comes the last sound I would have ever suspected.  As Anderson approaches his mic stand mid-jump, he pulls out a flute and begins manipulating the instrument in ways that have never been done. He begins screaming into the flute making unworldly tones while performing his signature one-foot flute dance.

The band was ahead of their time, creating not only unique music, but also an entire experience that correlated with it. In fact, they accidently created the quintessential progressive rock album “Thick as a Brick” and didn’t even identify with the genre. Ian Anderson even made fun of this fact at the show saying “40 years ago, when we were apparently the best ‘Progressive rock band’ whatever that means.”

Being able to see this band, even though it wasn’t the original lineup, fifty years after their inception, and watching them with my dad, was a truly special experience. At 70 years old, Ian Anderson’s voice is definitely strained, and he struggle reaching certain notes, although he surely attempted. However, as soon as he picked up the flute, it was like it was 1978 again. Anderson, as best he could, began dancing around stage and excitedly sang all of his hit songs with the adoring crowd cheering him on.

It was not the most technically impressive show I have ever seen. The drummer, perhaps lightning his touch as to not overshadow Anderson’s strained vocals, lacked intensity and drive that the original Jethro Tull brought to the mix which left a lot of the songs sounding rather sluggish. Also, the guitarist Anderson used on this tour seemed to not stylistically gel with the rest of the band not did he capture the essence of the original guitarist of the band. It was as though he were a metal influenced guitarist attempting to pull off classic rock riffs. However, the bassist and keyboardist were exceptional players and appeased my need for quality musicianship.

Overall, besides the downpour of rain throughout the entire show, it was a great performance and an honor to be able to witness one of the greatest entertainers in rock and roll history do his thing.


Patrick Ortiz 

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