Concert Review: Ian Anderson

The Smith Center, July 5

I expected that at 65 and with 21 Tull albums and five of his own, Jethro Tull?s stork-standing flautist and wild-eyed frontman would be hunkered down on a Scottish estate, growling at the irony of his wealth. Prog rock?s folk icon and one of its finest lyricists, Ian Anderson is forever the mad minstrel of the working class and ?poor foot soldier,? explicating their plight with a cynical wink and a nod in songs such as ?Banker Bets, Banker Wins.?

Anderson and his gang of five played Tull?s 1972 masterpiece ?Thick as a Brick? and his 2012 sequel, ?Thick as a Brick 2? back-to-back as a secular everyman morality play. Opening on a quiet stage with the band in janitor smocks miming a stage cleaning, they pranced and played under a projection screen blasted with a pastiche of images that included the Bayeux Tapestry, Hieronymus Bosch?s hellish triptych, Van Gogh?s Starry Night and Gainsborough pastorals juxtaposed with faux Skype and YouTube performances. Anderson?s voice has not improved with age, but the addition of a motley-clad and far younger Ryan O?Donnell taking on much of the singing worked well, resurrecting the lithe jester from 40 years ago. The adoring crowd cooed when the band returned for a ?Locomotive Breath? encore. Anderson?s flute poured out notes like a full-throated steam whistle heralding a juggernaut: The train it won?t stop going/No way to slow down. ★★★★☆

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