Ian Anderson, the Minstrel In the (Kravis) Gallery, proves Progressive Rock is Alive.

If the crowd at the Kravis Wednesday night is any indication, Prog Rock — even the more traditional forms, with folk and classical elements — is not nearly close to dead.  The hall was sold out, and the few empty seats were hard to spot.  Anderson, the Jethro Tull frontman, was performing the parody piece for the first time in over 35 years, for the 40th anniversary of its introduction.  And his sequel, Thick as a Brick 2 (TAAB 2) was even better executed than the original, and had just as many innovative hooks (and crooks) as its predecessor.  Just as Billboard said in their review of the new album, “there are still vital sonic statements to be made within the old-school prog-rock realm.”

 

Anderson put together a new suite of younger musicians, along with an actor — Ryan O’Donnell —  that nearly duplicated Anderson’s vocals for those sections that require both flute and voice.  (O’Donnell’s twitter profile says he’s a “Singing…. little….. idiot. currently on tour with jethro tull / Ian Anderson.”)  Anderson not only used O’Donnell for vocal coverage, he used his considerable acting skills to effectively double the animation usually brought to a Tull show by Anderson.   [Additional note: O’Donnell had performed in the Pete Townsend stage performance of Quadrophenia with Anderson’s touring keyboardist John O’Hara.  Not surprising, he’s been playing in bands since the age of 16.]

The rest of Anderson’s touring band was more than up to the difficult material;  Florian Opahle is the youngest in the band, but ripped off the guitar licks with an alacrity comparable to the legendary Martin Barre.  The bass (David Goodier) and drums (Scott Hammond) played the complex rhythms in absolute lockstep but still both shone brightly in their respective solo roles, doing more than justice to the original recordings.   John O’Hara, master of the piano, keyboards and accordion, opened the encore with a skilled prelude to Locomotive Breath, up to par with his phenomenal rendering of the stratospheric Hammond organ solos in Thick as a Brick.

Anderson’s flute playing has not diminshed in skill one whit, and both his flute work and vocals excelled beyond my expectations in the second half of the night (TAAB2).   I think he was saving his “best for last,” since that material was new to many of the attendees.  The sequel gave no ground up to the original in composition or performance.

The performance was as much a show as a concert, with multimedia support not imagined and dramatic nuance not utilized for the original work forty years ago. The sound was impeccable, even in the high reaches of the balcony, and the Kravis provides clear and unobstructed views from all the seats.  Why the venue did not have all the bars open for a sellout house is a puzzle, however. I’m sure many patrons were still in the extremely long lines to the bar that were open when the lights began to dim for the second half of the show.

Anderson originally composed Thick as a Brick as a parody of the 70’s “prog rock” music scene, but the epic piece became a cornerstone of progressive rock music for decades; though I had seen Tull in the 70’s, they just performed a snippet of the 40+ minute work. It was an incredible privilege to be able to hear it live.

Anderson and troop are playing in Fort Pierce the 25th and some seats were still available as of this writing… if you’re a fan of Jethro Tull, it’s a show not to be missed!  (Anderson is also playing the Orlando area and Ft. Myers before leaving the state.)

 

— Kenneth Burton, for DoWestPalm.com

 

 

 

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