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Jethro Tull, Live at Bangalore

By Jayaprakash Satyamurthy | February 7, 2006

Jethro Tull, Live at Bangalore

Date: February 3, 2006
Venue: Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore

It was a night of long distance runners.

Jethro Tull’s opening act in Bangalore, Thermal And A Quarter, understand perseverance. They’ve stayed together, in a somewhat shifting but generally coherent form for ten years, now. To their credit, they’ve not turned into a glorified cover band or piggybacked onto various hear-today-groan-tomorrow MTV trends. They’ve stuck by their own musical vision, and followed it wherever it took them. Which must be a good idea, because it led them to this stage, tonight, opening for another tenacious sort, Ian Anderson, and whoever happens to be in Tull with him at the moment.

The band kicked off the night’s proceedings with a surprisingly muscular cover of Queen’s “Radio Ga Ga”. After that, it was on with the originals! They’ve got three albums’ worth of songs to choose from, so it was a pretty varied set — groovy, jazzy and mellow by turns. To tie everything up with a nice red ribbon, they got a very talented individual called Prakash Sontakke, who played Hindustani slide guitar and also sang, to make for a pretty special version of the title track off their second album, ‘Jupiter Café’.

Opening for a band like Tull is never going to be an easy job — more than half the audience will hate you simply because you’re not the act they paid good money to see, and they can’t wait for you to vacate the stage already! Thermal pulled the act off with admirable nonchalance and conviction. Good for them.

And, then an intermission. Some kindly soul played songs by The Tea Party, one of my favourite bands, over the PA while the Tull people made mysterious preparatory maneuvers on a darkened stage. A sudden trill announced to the world that Mr. Ian Anderson was, in fact, on stage! Without much further ado, the lights came on, Anderson greeted the crowd and the band commenced their set with “My Sunday Feeling”, off their bluesy debut album, ‘This Was’. They followed this up with the usual assortment of tracks from their early albums — “Beggar’s Farm”, “Some Day The Sun Won’t Shine For You” and a particularly elegant rendition of “Jack-In-The-Green”, with Anderson playing acoustic and singing, and new guitarist Florian Opahle playing the flute parts on his “very German Gibson Les Paul”.

The first song to really get a rise out of the crowd at large was “Living In The Past” — it seems to be a huge favourite among Bangalorean Tullists, for reasons that no doubt include the fact that it’s a bloody good song. What I appreciated was the way Anderson interspersed instrumental material, largely from his recent solo excursions, into the set. Let’s face it, the man ruined his voice some time in the ’80s and a more instrumental approach is probably kinder to everyone involved. Some of this material included the folksy, accordion-laced “Eurology” from his last solo album, ‘Rupi’s Dance’, a Mozart medley called “Moe’s Art”, and of course that old tribute/raspberry to J S Bach, “Bouree”, at the end of which Anderson stalked the stage like a demented dockside thug, snorting, wheezing and whistling through his flute. The man may have lost his voice, but he still has all his energy, presence and sheer madcap verve.

Other highlights included a rather interesting rendition of “My God”, from ‘Aqualung’. The set relied rather heavily on tracks from that album, in fact, with nearly half the album being played at some point or the other during the course of the show. You’ll recall (or not) that free CDs of Tull playing the ‘Aqualung’ album live were given away with 4,000 of the concert tickets, and I suspect Anderson figured that this may well have been the first introduction to Tull for many of the audience, and decided to make things relatively painless for them by playing songs they’d have heard at least once before. Certainly, I know one person who’d never heard Tull until he received his free CD, and spent the afternoon before the show listening to it. Charming, I’m sure.

It’s a shame they didn’t play more of their recent stuff, especially material from the ‘Roots To Branches’ album. Tull are by no means a spent force, and the latter half of their output contains a lot of interesting music that deserves to be heard more widely. Also, the new songs are better suited to Anderson’s current vocal abilities, as his relatively relaxed and convincing delivery on “Budapest” showed. Still, I expect there’s some method to all this madness.

The set ended with an encore — that’s right, “Locomotive Breath”! It was a charged, energetic version, with the whole band strutting their stuff (musically, I mean), and a stirring climax to the show. As the crowd turned to leave, Anderson, ever the keen observer of human foibles, told the crowd: “Good night. Drive home safely — if you know how to.” The man obviously took a good look out of the window while being driven around Bangalore!

And that was that. There was much aimless roaming around the IIM-B campus, searching disconsolately for lost cars, a good 45 minutes just trying to exit the campus and a long drive home after that, but it was all good. Just another cheap day return.

Comments

2 Comments. Post Yours Here.
  1. November 11, 2006, 5:17 am rzzzz

    very, well written. better late than never eh? this comment i mean… keep at it. ‘sa good thing you do …

  2. February 15, 2007, 12:06 pm mayur channagere

    Jay,
    beautifully put …. I was there for this show covering it (in the press bay), and sheer energy that was emited on the stage is truly amazing…. to get a flavor of the show …follow the link below

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mayurchannagere/sets/72157594536856594/

    Cheers
    Mayur

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