Jethro Tull - Electric Show
Sunday, 29th July 2007
The Subscription Rooms
Stroud, Gloucestershire, UK
Article By E O Davies
A crescendo of applause, frantic cries for more, and a sustained standing ovation, the 2007 incarnation of Tull left the stage after 2 hours plus of breathtaking intimate music. The audience had witnessed an accomplished, powerful and confident performance that had turned back the years and often reminded of Tull at their peak.
The concert of Sunday, 29th July 2007, was a special show. It had been arranged by the radio station Planet Rock and advertised as a secret gig at a secret location. It was to be attended by 200 competition winners and guests drawn at random. I was fortunate enough to be one of the winners. I hoped that my latest attendance at a Tull show would not only be particularly memorable for the circumstances surrounding the show, but also for the music. I was not to be disappointed.
The venue at The Subscription Rooms in Stroud, Gloucestershire was perfect for the event. The Subscription rooms is a listed building with a small concert hall seating just 400. My seat on the front row slightly stage left was specifically chosen by me to give a close view of Martin Barre’s playing.
At 7.30 pm the show began. Living in the Past was first up, David Goodier’s six string bass and James Duncan’s drums providing an outstanding platform for the songs distinctive time signature. This was to be a fully electric Tull set as befitting a Planet Rock audience. The band was on fire, and this high level of energy and excellence was a feature of the evening. The newly recorded track The Donkey and the Drum was particularly moving. This instrumental piece was first played during Tull’s UK Spring 2007 acoustic tour. Its eclectic and progressive nature made it impressive then, but with a fuller electric sound it sounded simply outstanding.It contains all of the elements that have made Tull unique. I am hoping that this composition will be included in the new Tull CD which apparently should surface sometime in the next 12 months.
As in the acoustic tour, Tull were joined on stage for some numbers by Anna Phoebe. She excelled in every aspect. Her composition Gypsy was superb. It was very Tull like, and was reminiscent of Tull's Middle Eastern influenced sound from the Roots to Branches era. Anna Phoebe’s energy seemed to inspire Ian Anderson. The interplay between flute and violin was breath taking. There was a real chemistry/affinity between them which grew and developed as the evening wore on.
The first half of the show closed with a delightfully extended version of Bouree which included a bass solo. David Goodier’s bass playing was skillful, forceful and melodic. He does not have the stage presence of players like Glenn Cornick or Jeffrey Hammond Hammond, but is more animated than some Tull bassists have been. This was apparent at Stroud where he bounced along, mouthed and also sang the bass lines produced. All evening he interpreted the bass lines of various past Tull bassists with some aplomb and in his solo slots his jazz influences came to the fore.
The second half of the show was even more powerful and enjoyable than the first, beginning with a blistering rendition of Nothing is Easy.
There were however one or two negative aspects of the show. Ian Anderson’s voice sounded fine from the front row, but is a pale shadow of what it once was. The contrived humour, which has blighted Tull shows in recent years is still apparent. The hernia joke was performed yet again at the end of My God. The Planet rock crowd loved it though. I guess that is the point, people in the audience I spoke to were seeing Tull for the first or at most second time and as such, moments like the hernia joke still possess some magic or at least a certain quaint charm. The negative points mentioned though pale into insignificance when measured against the quality of the whole experience of seeing Tull perform. There were so many highlights in this inspirational concert that it is perhaps unfair to criticise specific parts.
Ian Anderson was in a jovial,talkative and relaxed mood. He was clearly enjoying the challenge and intimacy of playing to such a small crowd. The stripped down lighting helped to ensure that the crowd were visible to the band. This helped to create a magical point of contact between the performers and the audience. This intimacy was displayed by numerous smiles, comments, waves and winks and contributed to the success of the show.
Special mention, however, must be made of the magnificent playing of Martin Barre. His contribution to each song was immeasurable and immense. His instrumental piece After you after me was spell-binding in its intensity, incorporating a wide range of styles including some frantic shedding. His playing throughout the concert had the right balance of muscle and finesse. Piece after piece were embellished by free flowing solos which were expertly developed and executed. He looked relaxed and was having fun in this small setting, noticeably gaining a visible rapport with the audience. When Martin Barre is in this type of form, Tull invariably raise the bar to another level. This level of musical attainment was exemplified by the arrangement of Aqualung which was symphonic and totally outstanding.
The concert finished with a rousing version of Locomotive Breath. The relaxed and unique nature of this gig was summed up when both Ian & Martin left the stage to hide from keyboardist John O’Hara during his keyboard intro. They then surprised him by emerging from the front row of the audience to play. It was a priceless moment, and was genuinely funny. Locomotive Breath included a wonderfully extended instrumental section which allowed all players the freedom to express themselves.
Two hours of glorious, entertaining and enthralling music was over all too soon. I felt saddened that this unique show might be the last time I see Tull perform in such an accomplished manner. Nevertheless, I felt grateful and honoured to see Tull perform at this level of intensity and musical integrity in what is approaching their 40th year of existence.
Living In The Past
The Donkey And The Drum
Thick As A Brick
My Sunday feeling
Pastime With Good Company (King Henry's Madrigal)
Nothing Is Easy
After You After Me
Aqualung Orchestral Version
Jethro Tull Official Website
Anna Phoebe Official Website
Anna Phoebe MySpace Page
Planet Rock Radio
DPRP Concert Review - Jethro Tull Acoustic Show - April 2007