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Jethro Tull

Nothing is Easy: Live at the Isle of Wight 1970

Review by Josh Turner

This DVD is about a historical band playing a historical venue during a historical era. It's both a concert and a documentary. Music is more than sound. It's attitude, philosophy, expression, and appreciation. This DVD captures all these traits as well as the spirit of these special times. Their audience rebelled without a cause or a clue. The DVD documents the struggles between these outsider hippies and the resident local yokels. The fans go on to blame event coordinators for all the trials and tribulations they faced at the festival. The moderators appeared to be trying their best and were probably in way over their head. It was an ambitious festival for the number of fans and artists featured at this little venue, the tiny Isle of Wight.

In those days, coming fresh off the sixties, it seems there was an imaginary line drawn in the sand. You were either with the people or against them. Nobody was ever safe from the pointing finger. A lot of the troublemakers had unrealistic ideals, came up with their own pseudo politics, and advocated anti-establishment agendas to such a degree that lacked any reason. Ian Anderson said it best when he said they would preach peace and love and then hit their neighbor in the face.

I like how this DVD not only shows concert footage, but manages to work in Ian's own personal commentary. A substantial amount of ground is covered in a short amount of time {Note: everything is crammed into 80 minutes}. You'll learn a lot about the band, the music, the concert, and the times. It's like a musical history lesson.

For those who have never gotten a chance to see Ian perform live, he's a real character. He sings, but more importantly he plays the flute. This is his calling card, and there is nobody like him in the world of rock. As he plays, he becomes the pied piper. He balances on one leg while the other is tucked to a knee. When he isn't doing this artful balancing act, he is busy demonstrating his patented prance. He's over the top and overly dramatic. There is a point where he grabs himself in a very inappropriate way. Even for this crowd, it seemed a bit too much.

While I'm at it, I must take a moment to discuss the band's fashion sense. Back in the day, Ian's hair was like Slash's, however, there was no hat holding it in place. It was wild and all over the place. Between all the members, I've never seen a band with so much hair. We've all seen bell-bottoms, bowling shirts, and clashing colors, but I'm sure you'll still find yourself pondering what in the world Ian is wearing. It is a combination of yellow superhero tights and a bathrobe. It really is quite a hoot. During the concert, he does quite the aerobic workout, so his attire makes sense on some level. Back to the future, he is clean cut and laid back in the interview. In other words, his alter-egos are literally indistinguishable from one another to the casual fan.

In Anderson's commentary portion, he tells us how he became a flute player in a blues band. In an interesting turn of events, trying to emulate Eric Clapton and failing, he wound up with this shiny instrument and eventually it all evolved into what Jethro Tull would ultimately become. There is a section on the DVD where he plays guitar. I don't know why he talks his abilities down, because he is actually is a darn good guitar player. Yet, I'll have to concede that his true mastery is found on the flute. As he jokes, he got away with being the best and worst flute player in classic rock. That goes to show how distinctly different he must have been from other musicians of the time. Nowadays, progressive rock artists play the oboe, cello, you name it, but he was the one to start it all by using a classical instrument in a whole new way, the rock 'n' roll way. Ian's flute-playing is the real highlight of their music. When he isn't playing it, Jethro Tull has a sound that's similar to The Doors. Ian's voice is even somewhere in the ballpark of Morrison's.

Here is a glance of what we get on this DVD from the gutsy gang of Jethro Tull:

After following some footage that describes how the festival unfolded, "My Sunday Feeling" is the first song that's encountered and it's a great opener. Not everything is shown in its complete form and it's easy to miss the songs if you're not watching closely, but the grunts and whimpers of "My God" will surely to snag your attention. {Note: this was played here months before its appearance on the legendary Aqualung album} After "Bouree," we eventually encounter "Dharma for One." It more or less harkens back to the roots of heavy metal, and it features a long and crazy drum solo. The drummer, Clive Bunker, is intense, swift, and incensed in his playing. It goes on for 15 minutes. He pushes it so hard that it causes him to sweat profusely.

The title is fitting as "Nothing is Easy" is easily the best song on the DVD. It is also a proper pun for a concert that came upon so many hitches. To add to it all, we also get an aluminous encore that's a medley between "We Used To Know" and "For A Thousand Mothers." After a day of turmoil, they end on a high note, giving the fans exactly what they wanted. Their audience can only sit and stare in awe and meet its conclusion with a positive round of applause. Going back to earlier in that day, hooligans were trying to tear down the fences while people ranted on and on that the festival was bad, nothing but money. Like Ian says, the music broke the evil spell.

With the CD version, you get two additional songs from the middle portion of the concert: "With You There to Help Me" and "To Cry You a Song," but I would take this DVD over the audio recording any day due to all the added insight you get from the documentary and visual imagery.

This is a great concert and an honest documentary. Not to mention, Ian's interview is quite endearing. "Live at the Wight" is certainly worth your time. Even though I might not be the biggest Jethro Tull fan, I give this product a big thumbs up. Just like their music, it presents the festival and the times in an uncommon way. We've seen DVD packages come and go. Many are thrown together. This one, however, was put together with an immeasurable amount of thought and care.

To give you an idea, the menu system is ultra-intuitive. It is easy to find the place you left off as the material is well organized and the links are easy to follow. The title of each song shows in the bottom corner when each song starts. I can't begin to count the times I've had to search for my last position in other DVD packages. Also, due to all the dialogue and discussion, this is one music DVD where the subtitles actually have value for non-English speaking fans. That feature is carefully nestled into the options as well.

As Ian puts it, music is a celebration and it brings people together. Aside from all the negative comments and behaviors by some audience members, there is still a lot of good that came from this concert. During those watershed times, Wight witnessed an incredibly joyous event. To this day, it still creates intrigue and interest by those who appreciate music. The DVD actually makes this festival appear to be another Woodstock. This is your chance to see Jethro Tull's monumental and legendary performance again or for the very first time. Honestly, I never heard of this concert until recently, but now that I have, it is forever etched in my memory. I'm sure the same would be said by the 200,000 visitors that day.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2005 Year Book Volume 1 at lulu.com/strangesound.
You'll find concert pics of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
You'll find an audio interview of this artist in the Music Street Journal members area.
 
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