October 20, 2012
Long Beach Terrace Theater
Long Beach, CA
Review by Shawn Perry
The secret is out: Jethro Tull and Ian Anderson may or may not be mutually exclusive. Anderson blurred the line even more when he released Thick As A Brick 2. A full-on tour followed, with Anderson and his band playing both the original Thick As A Brick in its entirety for the first time since 1972, and its 2012 sequel. He hit the UK first, and has spent this past Fall in the U.S. Lucky for us, he came to one of Southern California’s coolest and classiest venues and put on a regular production — the kind Jethro Tull hasn’t done for a long time.
From the get-go, the show was definitely more theatrical, even before it actually began. The so-called roadies donning newsboy berets and trench coats caught everyone’s eye as they dusted and swept the stage before huddling up. The video introduction featuring the man himself as a village doctor gave way to the real Ian Anderson, a bandana on his head and his compact acoustic in his hands. And with a few strums of the guitar, it was on. “Really don’t mind if you sit this one out…”
Trench coats were shed and the other musicians were revealed. There was bassist David Goodier and keyboardist John O'Hara, who have also been with Jethro Tull since 2007. And there was drummer Scott Hammond and guitarist Florian Opahle, the two guys that make this combination more of a solo band than Jethro Tull. After all, if Martin Barre and Doane Perry were part of the line up, it most definitely would be Jethro Tull. But having different musicians was only a small factor of what differentiated tonight’s performance from one by Jethro Tull.
Longtime Tull fans like yours truly were a bit thrown off by the appearance of yet another man ditching his trench coat, swinging a broom handle and singing whole verses of Thick Of A Brick, something Anderson has always done himself. Of course, Anderson’s voice isn’t as strong as it was in the 70s, but the official reason is that he’s been freed up to play his flute, a predominant force in Thick As A Brick, when he might otherwise be singing (he obviously overdubbed both his vocals and flutes parts n the studio). This would, in turn, authenticate the musicality of the piece even further — which it did to great effect. Singer Ryan O'Donnell, who sang on TAAB 2 and is active in the UK theater scene, does an admirable job on the vocals.
The longer passages of the original Thick As A Brick, which were essentially abandoned after the 1972 tour, flourish at the hands of Anderson’s magnificent band. Opahle is altogether different and unique as a guitarist who has been challenging Anderson for nearly 10 years. While he faithfully replicated the major guitar parts of Thick As A Brick, it’s likely, as the guitar player on Thick As A Brick 2, he was given more free reign.
Speaking of Thick As A Brick 2, Anderson and company dug right in after a short intermission. It was difficult to assess how much of the piece the audience was familiar with, or if they were able to follow the concept or story, as it were, from the original to the sequel. Gerald Bostock, the main character of the Thick As A Brick franchise, was nowhere to be found, even as Anderson donned various guises alluding to St. Cleve, where the concept or story, as it were, takes place. Video from YouTube to random clips of a lost, landward scuba diver filtered in and out — which got plenty of laughs.
There is, in fact, a lot more humor in TAAB 2. Suggestions of "What-ifs, Maybes and Might-Have-Beens" illuminated wide-eyed smiles even as the band played on. Certainly not as instrumentally 'thick' as its predecessor, TAAB 2's lyrics traverse through various possible scenarios of Bostock's life. During "Banker Bets, Banker Wins," O'Donnell went into character and Opahle churned out one responsive lead after another. Then there were those nods to the composer's own past; at one point, a class photo showed up on the screen, featuring Anderson and former Tull band mates, Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond and John Evan.
With both pieces complete and bows taken, an encore of "Locomotive Breath" brought the evening to a close. The Thick As A Brick 1 & 2 Tour runs through December and a remastered, remixed in 5.1 40th anniversary edition of Thick As A Brick is slated for a November 6 release. Anderson says Jethro Tull is still an ongoing concern he will return to in 2013. Will he try to convince Martin Barre and Doane Perry to play anything from TAAB 2 on the next Tull tour? Hmmm...Really, don't mind if I sit this one out...