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Rock of ages

20 Mar 2006 / 0 Comments / in music and gigs

Jethro Tull has been making music since 1968. The band’s frontman and creative visionary Ian Anderson was just a lad of 20 when it all kicked off 38 years ago. So it wasn’t surprising to find that the average age of the audience at the New Theatre Oxford last night was about 48. These are loyal fans.

Ian Anderson’s statistics are impressive: more than 60 million albums sold, more than 2,500 concerts performed in 40 countries and an average of 100 concerts a year. And the reason is simple: Tull’s music just sounds damned good: big colourful melodies, catchy riffs, mad time signatures, interesting lyrics, astonishing musicianship, exuberant showmanship, attention the detail and singalongability.

Living in the past?
The age thing is important. They’ve been doing their thing for a good few years now and it must be hard to keep it fresh. I saw Tull play at the Cropredy festival in 2004 and the complaint from the Tull fans I was with was they’d seen it all before. The same songs. Almost in the same order. Something needed to change.

For this tour they opened with an acousticky set. Lots of what you’d expect: a bit folky, nice guitar, lots of flute, a bit of recorder, some accordian, Anderson leaping around on stage… But then, bring on barefoot and bonkers 22-year-old violinist
Lucia Micarelli. She accompanied the band in many of the songs and injected passionate, classical vibes into the familiar tunes. She did a solo of a movement from a Sibelius violin concerto which had more rock in it than a Brighton beach-front sweet shop.

Billed as the ‘Aqualung’ tour, after the 1971 album of the same name, Anderson was only a year older than Lucia when it was released. This is music for all generations and is perhaps attracting new fans – probably the sons and daughters of Tull’s original following.

After the interval, the band got into the big rock groove and opened with an interpretation of Zeppelin’s ‘Kashmir’ arranged by Lucia who attacked her violin like a frenzied, scary fairy. Wonderful. The crowd, who had offered warm, appreciative – yet polite – applause in the first half, went crazy. The big Tull tunes is what they wanted. And they got them.

When someone under the age of 30 today asked me ‘what’re Tull like then?’, I struggled to answer. Errr…Prog? Folk? Blues? Rock? The music is so full of variety, colour and contrasts I find it almost impossible to label it. It’s all those things, yes, but like good design it seems ageless.
Photos: Moth Clark

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