Ian Anderson @ Atlanta Symphony Hall 9-30-2014

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“Aqualung my friend, don’t you start away uneasy. You poor old sod, you see it’s only me”.  As these lyrics evoked a sense of pity for our dear old friend on the park bench, the audience had to feel some sense of pity for another old friend, Ian Anderson.  At 67 years old the genius behind Jethro Tull was still able to transport us through four decades of our youth and bring us into the new territory of Homo Erraticus.  This audio-visual trip took place on a Tuesday evening in the first week of Autumn 2014 at the Atlanta Symphony Hall.  Of course the crowd was older, the venue had great acoustics, and best of all we were able to sit for the entire performance.  Why the sense of pity?  Ian’s voice has suffered over the years.  Although he tried valiantly to give us every ounce of energy he has left in his vocal cords, it still wasn’t enough.  Nonetheless I enjoyed the show – warts and all.                                                                                                                                                    The band ran through a 20 song, two and a half hour set.  The first eight tunes were from the current release Homo Erraticus and the rest were Tull classics with a few deeper tracks thrown in.  On stage they were a five or six piece, with the sixth member being Ryan O’Donnell.  He was brought in to bolster Ian’s failing vocal range, and to allow us to hear songs with simultaneous flute and vocals which obviously couldn’t be done on stage with only Ian.  Ian has chosen an excellent band mate for lead guitar, Florian Opahle, who shredded the solos as fine as any other version of Tull.  Ian was in fantastic physical shape and performed his trademark flautist yoga, balancing on one leg while playing the flute and waiving the other arm in the air (try it yourself).

I’ve seen Jethro Tull a dozen times, in various versions and incarnations of the band, over the course of most of my life, in small halls and cavernous arenas.  I own nearly all of the Tull/Anderson discography.  One of the first dates with my (now) wife was a Tull concert at the Civic Arena in Pittsburgh.  So needless to say, I have a special place in my heart and mind for the music of Ian Anderson.  Therefore the following comments are made lovingly.  The rendition of “With You There To Help Me” from 1970’s Benefit absolutely sucked at this concert.  The dissonant harmonies did not come off well.  It was painful to sit through it.  On the other hand, “Thick As A Brick” was one of the highlights of the show.  They played nearly the entire LP version, not the radio edit.  And the band was very tight through all the meter and key changes.                                                                                           Ian5

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The last song was the obligatory “Aqualung” (I’m sure Ian gets tired playing it) and the encore was “Locomotive Breath”.  Everyone seemed reasonably satisfied as we marched out onto Peachtree Street.  I know I was.

This wasn’t the same Ian Anderson that we followed to the pinnacle of rock royalty.  But then again we’re not the same either.  “Too Old To Rock and Roll : Too Young To Die”?  You decide.

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Until the next concert, it’s time for my boot heels to be wanderin’.             George Ford

 Setlist :

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