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12 February 1977


Jethro Tull

The scene for the latest round of Jethro Tull v The Music Press is a sellout concert at the Glasgow Apollo. Enter the press man, specially selected for his dislike of Ian Anderson; he's been thinking up insults all week. Roll the pre-recorded tapes — sounds like something the Nice rejected — and on comes Ian Anderson.

Hells bells, he's had his hair cut! He looks almost neat. He's wearing a red bowler, a cream suit, the bottom half of which is the familiar breeches, and a red waistcoat. He starts off into 'Wondering Aloud' on acoustic guitar as the rest of the band file on one by one, bizarrely dressed as usual, and join in. The shadowy sixth member on pipe organ is later identified as David Palmer of the London College of Some-thingorother.

At the end of the number, Ian Anderson has his first go at his critics, and after a diversion for 'Skating Away' from War Child, a song from the new LP: "Everyone will tell you it's really shit." It's 'Jack In The Green'. Unfortunately they were right — it is really shit.

"Our critics tell us this is something of a standby," Anderson announces before a long version of some of 'Thick As A Brick', then into 'Songs From The Wood', a hopelessly contrived mock madrigal.

After 'To Cry You A Song' Anderson goes off and the band take on the world for a long instrumental. Back comes Ian to lead on flute through snatches of classical music, 'Bouree', 'Driving Song' and 'Living in The Past' (greeted with deserved acclaim) and others from happier days.

Another number from the justly-slated new LP is preceded by all the old kilt jokes strung together. Ho Hum. It's 'Velvet Green'. Isn't it rare to be taking the air? Putting on airs, you mean. The village squire bit fails flat on its face — a pity, because there's the basis of a really good song in there.

Another new song, 'Hunting Girl': "You'll hate it." It's accompanied by limp SM jokes and Anderson hitting John Glasscock with a riding crop. Next comes another dig at the music press. "I seem to have acquired a reputation for hating the music press, as it likes to call itself." A biting attack! That really showed 'em. But just to show he doesn't harbour grudges, this next one is dedicated to CW of MM — 'Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll, Too Young To Die.'

The rest of the show consists of an excerpt from 'Passion Play', 'Minstrel In The Gallery' and 'Aqualung'. 'Wind Up' and 'Locomotive Breath' (superb) are the encores. During the latter, two big white balloons bearing signs, which have been attached to the back curtain without explanation during the whole show, are thrown out to the audience for bursting while the band play 'Land Of Hope And Glory'. A brief snatch of 'Back Door Angels' and he's off.

Another battle over, but the campaign goes on, and the Ian Anderson v The Music Press war shows no sign of being resolved. If you love Anderson, his shallow concepts and his infantile sexual innuendos, you'll wet yourself at this neat two-hour show. But if you wish he'd drop all this contrived nonsense and just write songs again, real songs with feeling and spontaneity, you'll just have to wait and hope. I'll join you.

This idea of a band leader as a man with a vision is OK while the leader's eye is in, but consistent panning does suggest something is wrong. 'Aqualung' isn't really Jethro Tull's finest hour — it's no less contrived a concept than any that followed it, it's just that the fine music obscured this rather than carried it off. I'd go back even further for the best Jethro Tull, before concepts. Perhaps it is all in the past, but it was first class stuff, and now I'm not prepared to settle for anything less.

A word of praise for the excellent lights, and now let's hear it for the band. They were great. What a fine guitarist Martin Barre is: his talents are being wasted. Barrie Barlow is a good, solid rock drummer, and John Evan has come on by leaps and bounds (but less of the Upper Class Twit Of The Year act please). But the top notch is reserved for John Glascock on bass, who put heart and soul into his fine, fine work. I could have listened to him all night. I'd like to see a Jethro Tull Without Ian Anderson tour. That would really sort out the sheep from the goat.



Thanks to Mike Wain for this article.