Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull plays Thick As A Brick – Royal Albert Hall
On the weekend that saw the Rolling Stones make their debut at the Glastonbury festival, TOWT and I had our own taste of grandad rock when we went to the RAH to see TOWT’s favourite group – Jethro Tull.
This tour started out over a year ago to “celebrate” the 40th anniversary of the release of Thick As A Brick (TAAB), an album famous for its gatefold sleeve in the format of a newspaper, the St Cleve Chronicle – a friend of mine actually did the crossword, what wags we were in those days! – and for being just one track spread over two sides of an LP. The album features a poem written by an intelligent 8-year-old boy, Gerald Bostock, and explores the trials of growing up. Anderson claimed it to be a spoof of the prog-rock monstrosities that were around at the time – some were not convinced, but it was enormously successful at the time.
The original TAAB is a complex piece. Anderson takes a lead role with guitar, flute and vocal parts mastered over each other making it difficult to replicate live. He overcomes the problem by introducing another co-vocalist, his doppelganger Ryan O’Donnell, who also takes over vocals which hit ranges that anno domini prevents the maestro from reaching. Still, Anderson is sprightly enough to give enough of his party piece, playing the flute on one leg, to keep the crowd satisfied. Violinist Anna Phoebe and former Soft Cell vocalist, Marc Almond, made guest appearances. The sound was a bit bottomy for my liking and made the vocals – his word play is one of the delights of Anderson’s oeuvre – difficult to decipher in parts.
TAAB2 wonders what would have happened to Gerald – a greedy investment banker, a homeless homosexual man, a sanctimonious preacher, a soldier or a most ordinary man? – and was clearly written with live performance in mind. It gives an updated twist to the riffs of the original. This was a more confident rendition of the album than the last time we saw it and worked well. The evening was rounded off with a blistering encore version of Locomotive Breath – name checked in TAAB2 to maintain the theme – and reminded the audience that the band has still got it.
Although I prefer my live music in a more intimate setting than that which the RAH can give, it was still an enjoyable evening.
To round off the grandad theme for the weekend, having just hosted our own Bundle of Joy, we had a drink pre-concert in the Gore Hotel, venue for the Stones’ Beggars’ Banquet launch party. Stones’ memorabilia grace the walls. I for one take great delight in these symmetries of life!