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20 May-2 June 1982
(Issue no. 16)
GIVE IT A TWIRL
Wembley Arena, London
In an age when audiences start rushing down to the front, matches alight, even before the safety curtain has been raised, it's instructive to be reminded how the traditional rock concert is conducted. Jethro Tull reinforced some basic lessons when they returned in triumph to Wembley. Ian Anderson expects the audience to do some work. They have to listen, sometimes to new and unfamiliar material, and to tunes that don't have instant riot appeal.
There are slow patches, bits where the folk singing and gentle acoustic guitar is almost soporific. But gradually over two hours the pace hots up, the tension mounts, and you feel you've actually undergone a course of treatment instead of a quick energy fix. And then, as Tull suddenly blast into 'Aqualung', the cumulative pressure unleashes an explosion. Now the audience begin rushing to the front, now they stand up in waves, now they are lighting gas flames, and emitting a roar of delight that drums around the vast walls of the Arena.
Ian Anderson's boundless energy after a dozen years of touring is quite astonishing. He twirled his flute and pranced a merry highland fling, and, as he was chased around the stage by a large goose and men in white coats, the old Tull humour seemed just as manic.
The band has changed drastically over the past couple of years, and sounded very clipped, precise and vigorous. Gerry Conway eschewed a drum solo, but battered home some satisfying fill-ins, particularly on a trio spot with Dave Pegg on bass and new star keyboard player, kilt-clad Peter-John Vettese. Martin Barre played with the mixture of thunderous energy and restraint that is his forte and was showcased in a long solo short on gimmicks and heavy on blues.
Skilled and gifted musical craftsmen, they provided Ian's songs with all the different backdrops they needed whether it was hard rock on 'Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll, Too Young To Die', or the kind of 13th century madrigal feel that envelopes many of his 'Songs From The Wood' and rural ditties.
Squire Anderson waved a huge broadsword dangerously near Martin's nether extremities during songs from their latest album (The Broadsword And The Beast), and punted huge exploding balloons out into the audience. But it was the roar of the band as they got into their heaviest moments that ultimately captivated an audience who seemed evenly mixed between 14-year-old novice Tull freaks and silver-haired rock business veterans.
With a lot of the earliest Tull material now finally ditched I thought Ian should have given himself a new vehicle for a flute showcase, but doubtless he has judged that the times are against such instrumental extravagance. Even with these cut backs, however, Tull have a vast library of music to perform. They could have played on for another two hours and the audience would have been with them, cheering all the way.