Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
In the mid Seventies, myself and a couple of my equally sad friends would spend an inordinate deal of our time allocating rock groups to divisions. Hours of our early teenage years were spent debating our respective cases, but I think we generally felt Yes, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Led Zeppelin were all First Division bands. I was a fan of Jethro Tull around this time, and would argue vehemently for their inclusion in the top flight, usually to deaf ears. Ears deafened by noise created by such outfits as Deep Purple, Rush and Black Sabbath.
By the early Eighties however, partly due to my changing musical tastes, but more likely a consequence of a couple of rubbish albums (A and Under Wraps), I more or less filed Jethro Tull under Done and Dusted, and never really gave them much of a thought for the following 15 years.
I do remember reading about the furore surrounding their Grammy award for the Crest of a Knave album in 1987, but even this did not really kindle any desire to investigate.
And it was only when in the late Nineties that I picked up and listened to a budget compilation CD (20th Anniversary, or sume such), that I thought, “This stuff is actually still quite good”. Thus began a brief flurry of back catalogue investigation, and the pleasant discovery that the band were still gigging, and indeed were due to drop into Glasgow fairly soon, on a tour to support a new release J-Tull.Com
The support for the tour was an American singer by the name of Vyktoria Pratt Keating, her middle name reflecting the fact she shared ancestry with cinema’s most famous Pratt: Boris Karloff. She enjoyed a slightly quirky song writing style, and kept us as all entertained for 30 minutes or so, before the main act.
And then suddenly there they were; and it was like running into old friends again. Vocalist Ian Anderson and guitarist Martin Barre both looked remarkably hale and hearty, with barely a pound of spare flesh between them - although with significantly less hair on top, something I could relate to. The three other guys were new to me: an impossibly tall drummer Doane Perry, plus a brace of young pups playing bass guitar and keyboards.
The set opened with Steel Monkey, a synth driven rocker from the Crest of a Knave album, with Barre have great fun on his guitar. Much of the next half-hour or so was taken up with songs from the Stand Up album – it was, after all, the 30th anniversary of that collection’s release. Hearing Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square was a real treat, and I believe this was possibly the first tour that the song had been included in the band’s set.
A few from the new album were aired, the most memorable being Dot Com, with Anderson playing some odd flute, which looked for all the world as if it had been fashioned that morning from a length of bamboo cane – which perhaps it had. Another new ‘un was the a paean to pussy cats Hunt by Numbers, which had Anderson performing a slightly silly stalking dance along to Martin’s surprisingly heavy riff.
During Hunting Girl proceedings were stopped dead midway through by a telephone ringing. Anderson answered it and, after identifying a girl in the front row who had plainly come along with her partner, handed the phone to her saying “It’s for you. It’s his Wife!” I am sure seasoned Tull watchers would have witnessed this skit a few times, but I thought it was fun.
I discovered the band still did the Locomotive Breath/Aqualung thing toward the end, and noted Barre still refused to play the Aqualung solo as recorded on the original album, something which for some reason annoyed me inordinately.
In fact, I seem to recall subsequently sending an email to Ian Anderson via the band’s website, asking if he would request Martin to “stop monkeying around with the Aqualung guitar solo” – a request which was rather predictably ignored.
Setlist (from Nottingham gig on 18/11/99)
For a Thousand Mothers
Serenade to a Cuckoo
Nothing is Easy
Jeffrey Goes To
A New Day Yesterday
Hunt by Numbers
Flying Dutchman (intro)/My God
Aqualung/Living in the Past/Dogs in the Midwinter