Live At Montreux 2003

Jethro Tull

It’s a no-brainer: Jethro Tull and Montreux go together like ham and rye. Jethro Tull is a world-class rock band with a foothold in jazz, among a gazillion other styles; Montreux is a jazz festival that caters to world-class rock bands. Taken supposedly from their very first appearance at the festival in 2003, Live At Montreux (available as a single DVD and double CD) features Jethro Tull in all their glory, punctuating the landscape with the best of the lot in this day and age of American Idol. Something tells me Simon Crowell would have a difficult time getting his mind around a slice of Tull’s dissonant lullabies. But for those on the inside, it’s not too hard to digest.

Opening with “Some Day The Sun Won’t Shine For You” from 1968’s This Was, Tull’s debut album, the band proceeds to lay down an even-handed performance, softening up the crowd with lots of acoustically based tunes with dashes of beefier fodder that helped win the group that disputed 1989 Grammy for Best Heavy Metal Performance. “Life Is A Long Song” never seems to lose its charm and dignified presentation, hardly imaginable years before. In his own self-effacing manner, Anderson describes “Bouree’” as sleazy cocktail jazz, “the worst jazz you ever heard in your life” — but if anything, it is vintage Tull.

“With You There to Help Me,” from 1969’s Benefit, sounds simply glorious, paving the way for “Pavane,” from The Jethro Tull Christmas Album, a smooth, non-denominational instrumental that keenly captures the band as the masterful musicians they are. “Empty Café,” an equally delightful jazz-flavored acoustic instrumental featuring guitarist Martin Barre (and some stellar bass accompaniment from Jonathan Noyce), follows, and by the now, anything can happen and most certainly will. But whether he’s getting randy with his guitar player and making wisecracks, Anderson still holds his own as the focal point and undisputed leader of Jethro Tull.

So why not kick in things in unexpectedly with “Hunting Girl,” from 1977’s Songs From The Wood. Anderson issues a warning about dancing to “Eurology,” from his 2003 solo album Rupi’s Dance. And before you can ask, “Who is that masked girl on ‘Dot Com,’” we’re transported to Christmas time merriment for “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen.” The time of year means nothing and versatility is the name of the game, so why not roll out “Fat Man” and get Barre to play the flute. Brilliant! Then it’s on to a monumental “Living In The Past” that catapults and sashays before falling into yet another oldie, “Nothing To Lose” from 1969’s Stand Up. But what could have prepared me for “My God” and its god-like delivery? When it ended, I thought: “My God!”

Ok, so you got Andrew Giddings on keyboards, trying his damnest to be as animated as John Evan was back in the 70s, and pretty much succeeding. But all eyes are on Anderson, who struggles vocally on the harder numbers, but packs the passion and execution to more than make up for it. Which is why “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath,” the traditional closers, still zing to this very day with a timeless sheen. No doubt, fans of live Tull should seek this one out as a necessary addition to their vast and growing library.

~ Shawn Perry

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