Live Review: Jethro Tull, Portsmouth Guildhall, 19th May 1990


The enigma of Jethro Tull is captured in the opening moments of their show. As an introductory tape of a classical piece given the rock treatment by Tull themselves concludes, guitarist Martin Barre leaps into view stage right, crashing out a succession of searing chords which hit the audience like thunderbolts. Seconds later Ian Anderson strolls on stage left strumming an acoustic guitar and softly singing the whimsical love song Wondrin' Aloud. Heavy metal folkies? Rustic rockers? Twenty-two years on the road and Jethro Tull still defy categorization — and long may it continue that way.

Despite advancing years and receding hairlines Tull have lost none of their sparkle on stage. The intimacy of the smaller venues on this goodwill back-to-the-provinces tour, typified by the neat surroundings of the Guildhall, has facilitated the inclusion of a number of rarely performed acoustic songs, such as A Christmas Song, Cheap Day Return, Nursie, and Mother Goose. But when the band effortlessly change pace to let rip on timeless gems like My God and Love Story (a 1968 single never previously played live) along with more recent rockers like Steel Monkey and Kissing Willie, Ian Anderson demonstrates that he is still the showman supreme, with his wild gesticulations, balletic poses, and leering facial gymnastics.

No indulgent rock idol posturing for the world's most famous fish-farmer though — self deprecation attends Anderson's every action and witty inter-song patter. While other rock luminaries might finish an instrumental solo arms aloft in the glare of a spotlight and wallowing in the crowd's adulation, Anderson concludes his flute solo — already laced with breathy snorting humour — by feigning a hernia.

Anderson as team leader and Barre as vice-captain are ably complemented by the musical dexterity and comic antics of bassist Dave Pegg, drummer Doane, and multi-instrumentalist Martin Allcock, the latter having integrated himself perfectly into the band's image and music, and a highlight of the show is the spirited rendition of the instrumental The Pine Marten's Jig by the aforementioned trio.

Throughout the show — which lasted two and half hours, not counting the interval (a feature most welcome to the more ageing of the bladders) — Tull proved that you don't need lasers, smoke bombs, and silly haircuts to mount an exciting rock show. It's the quality of the music that counts. The enthusiastic Portsmouth punters were up on their feet for Too Old To Rock n' Roll, and the finale of Aqualung and Locomotive Breath brought the house down. This was the best Tull gig I'd seen in over ten years, and that they can recapture and surpass earlier glories (with, it must be said, new songs to boot) bodes well for the next decade. As the song (eventually) says, you're never too old to rock n' roll if you're too young to die. Long live Jethro Tull!

Martin Webb
Riff Raff
July 1990

Share on Google Plus


Post a Comment