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Jethro Tull

Live in Rockford, IL, July 24th, 2001

Review by Mike Korn

It was certainly fitting that Jethro Tull would play a grand venue such as the refurbished Coronado Theater. This classic old movie palace is full of ornate and baroque imagery, easily lending itself to thoughts of a time gone by. The music of Jethro Tull is equally spectacular and timeless in its appeal.

The Coronado was jam-packed with Tull fans of all ages and stripes. The band has a reputation of attracting some of the most devoted fans in rock and that seemed to be proven tonight, as Ian Anderson and his troops were warmly greeted and applauded for virtually every note.

Kicking off with the breezy "Budapest", it was pretty obvious right from the start that we are dealing with world-class musicians. Not one note was out of place and the crystal clear sound allowed the listener to absorb the many nuances of Tull's music. Guitarist Martin Barre is no spring chicken but his ability to crank out powerful riffs, bluesy solos and tasteful acoustic licks...often in the space of a single song...was phenomenal. Anderson is of course the focal point but I'd say it's Barre who definitely propels the "rock" part of Tull's music.

Anderson proved to be a delightful frontman, scampering across the stage like a satyr with mischief on his mind. He kept the crowd well amused with some humorous barbs during the show, claiming that Boris Yeltsin single-handedly prevented nuclear war because he was too drunk to find the launch button, lambasting those in the audience who disliked cats and relating that he is the worst skinflint in rock because he refuses to throw his guitar pick into the crowd like so many metal bands do!

Ian was more than just a genial host. Nobody can touch this guy on the flute! He brought forth an amazing collection of sounds from that humble instrument and seemed to have an endless supply of breath to send through it. This was the first time I've been to a rock concert with a "flute solo" but I've seen very few guitarists master their instrument they way Anderson has mastered his. Plus, he also played guitar and sang lead on every track. His reedy, distinctive voice is unmistakable.

The concert was a tour through a lot of different musical territories and there was a lot of pleasing variation in the set. From the heavy and ominous "Cross Eyed Mary" to the delicate balladry of "Skating Away" and all points in between, Tull hit it all. The musical highlights were many but I'd say "Thick As A Brick" really sums up everything about Jethro Tull in a nutshell. There's appealing acoustic work, great flute play from Anderson, some very progressive and majestic touches and some heavy guitar riffs. A masterful song, played without fault.

Some other highlights were the dark and epic "Sweet Dreams", the bluesy "Farm on the Freeway" and a newer track called "Hunt By the Numbers" which began with some almost Black Sabbath-type riffing before heading into typical Tull territory. There was a brief flirtation with J.S. Bach (who Anderson called "Johnny" and claimed to know personally) and a heavily Middle-Eastern flavored "Water Carrier Song",where instruments like an accordion, an electric bazouki and some weird Arabic drum were used.

But the night wrapped up with the Tull classics everyone came to hear: the melodic "Bungle In the Jungle"(marred somewhat by a guy in a stupid rabbit suit cavorting on stage Spinal Tap style), the crunching epic "Aqualung", the rather dark "Locomotive Breath" and the sweet anthem "Living In the Past". My only complaint was that they did not play their classic track "The Teacher", which I rate very highly on the list of Tull greats.

The combination of a wonderful venue, classic rock and roll, an appreciative crowd and a band of exceptional talent and ability made this night an unforgettable one. Jethro Tull seems to defy time and logic in their long career...all for the better, as far as I'm concerned!

with special thanks to Shawn Ainsworth for assistance

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2001 Year Book Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.




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