Wednesday, September 18, 2019

“Ian Anderson Presents: Jethro Tull 50th Anniversary Tour” at Forest Hills Stadium

By Michael Perlman
Jethro Tull takes the Forest Hills Stadium stage, Photo by Michael Perlman
Forest Hills was on the map for the Jethro Tull tour, where the largely filled stadium was the quintessential venue for a 50th anniversary concert on the mild late summer’s night of September 14. Ian Anderson, who was born in 1947 in Fife, Scotland, is the sole original member of the British rock band “Jethro Tull,” as well as the lead vocalist and a flautist, credited for introducing the flute to rock music. Additionally, he is a multi-instrumentalist, who can also be found playing the guitar, harmonica, bass, and keyboard. 

Ian Anderson's flute & signature one-leg stance, Photo by Michael Perlman
The band debuted at the famed Marquee Club in London, and their success continued with 30 albums that sold over 60 million copies. In 50 years, Jethro Tull performed in 40 countries, performing over 3,000 concerts. Today, Anderson lives on a farm in England, site of his rehearsal and recording studio. 

Ian Anderson plays flute in front of his cultural background video monitor, Photo by Michael Perlman
Anderson’s quality lyrics engaged the audience and his showmanship were distinguished by his eloquence and witty nature. The stage became his dance studio, where he freely moves, and his signature single-legged flute stance was evident from early in his career. Two sets consisted of 18 numbers including “Dharma for One,” “Thick as a Brick,” “A New Day Yesterday,” “Warm Sporran,” and some of the most famous, “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath.” Traditional and cultural themes were apparent such as in “Bourée in E minor,” a flute-based spin on Bach’s classical piece, “Pastime with Good Company,” a King Henry VIII cover, as well as in “Heavy Horses” which mourns the loss of labor for England’s horses by favored machinery.

Anderson narrated select numbers. Before performing “Warm Sporran,” which has only been played publicly in the last few weeks, he said, “This is a piece that has sentimental value during the years that I spent in agriculture in the highlands of Scotland back in the 80s and 90s. I can often be found back then wandering through the glorious glens of the mountainsides, along the steep river banks, wearing nothing but a warm sporran.”

“This is the oldest theme of all,” Anderson said before performing “Pastime With Good Company.” “It wasn’t written by me, since I was still in short trousers back then in the 16th century when it was recorded as King Henry VIII’s madrigal in merry old England.” 

Jethro Tull, Photo by Michael Perlman
Fans ranged from diehards to first-timers. Eric Schreiber has been tuning in to Jethro Tull since the 1970s. He observed how over 50 years, the band journeyed through folk, progressive, and hard rock phases. He said, “Their trademark sound, which distinguishes Ian Anderson from other frontmen, is his prominent featuring of the flute. For a lead singer to alternate vocals with playing a wind instrument with his level of mastery is impressive. With some bands, the lead guitarist creates the band’s signature sound, but with Jethro Tull, it’s definitely Anderson’s flute and vocals.” He continued, “It was interesting how he chronicled the evolution of the band over the years with all of its members. His current band does a fine job of supporting him and did the music justice.” His favorite numbers were “A New Day Yesterday,” “My God,” “Aqualung,” and “Locomotive Breath,” and in response to the latter, he said, “It was kind of cool that you could see the LIRR from the stadium as that song was playing.” 

Jethro Tull with one of many outstanding backdrops, Photo by Michael Perlman
“When Ian came on stage, the sun was setting, it became dark just like in the theatre, and when he started performing, it was magical,” said Linda Glaser. “When I think of Jethro Tull, I think of Ian playing the flute with his toes touching his opposite knee. It was like time hasn’t moved since the 70s.” As for the band’s rapport with the audience, she said, “It was something I have never seen! Every song had a backup story, and past musicians were presented on video to narrate the songs.” She also fell in love with the venue’s ambiance. “The people we met in our row felt like long-lost friends,” she said. 

Ian Anderson belting a note, Photo by Michael Perlman
Peter Arato considered the high points the instrumentals, such as in “Bourée.” Additionally, he admired how Anderson entertained the crowd with retrospective stories of each tune between songs. He said, “An elaborate backdrop alternated between historic footage of Tull, a psychedelic light show, tributes by other musicians to the band’s 50th anniversary, and folks doing duets with Ian Anderson. The visuals really added to the experience.” His evening was also boosted by the stadium’s character. “There is probably no better or more intimate venue to see an outdoor show than Forest Hills Stadium, with a sense of history from the basic structure to the portraits of legends, both athletic and musical.” 

Longtime fan Steven Rosen sports his Jethro Tull t-shirt
“My memories came flooding back reliving my journey with them over 50 years,” said Steven Rosen, who found enjoyment in what he considers lesser known numbers, “Heavy Horses” and “Farm by the Freeway,” in addition to top hits “Aqualong” and “Locomotive Breath.” He praised Anderson’s rapport and professionalism. “Ian referred to seeing old friends again, which was nice to hear, and also let the applause die down before continuing the concert, which most bands in a hurry to finish do not.” 
Ian Anderson & his band take a bow, Photo by Michael Perlman
For Jane Firkser-Brody, it was a nostalgic night, which was reminiscent of the 1970 Jethro Tull concert at the Fillmore East. “Bourée” was her personal favorite, which largely made the crowd interact. She said, “I absolutely love the sound of a flute, and Ian Anderson plays as good as ever. Even though he is the only original member, his band sounds as if they have been playing together for years. Jethro Tull is made up of excellent musicians!” 

A portion of Kevin Wadalavage's Jethro Tull ticket stub collection
It was Kevin Wadalavage’s 14th Jethro Tull engagement, and he proudly retained his ticket stubs since 1972 at Madison Square Garden. He explained, “The musicians of early Tull, some of which were featured on the screen in the show, including Barriemore Barlow, Jeffrey Hammond, and Clive Bunker, were amazingly entertaining and skilled, and I would invite anyone to watch some of their early concert footage.” He continued, “Ian makes all the classic moves he has made for decades, and that is all we visually focus on with the band while they dutifully execute the notes.” He reminisced, “I first came to Forest Hills Stadium to see The Who in 1971, and having always lived in Queens, it has been a real treat to see the Stadium come back to life. I can see world-class talent and still be home in ten minutes.”

A similar version appears in Michael Perlman's Forest Hills Times column: 

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