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30 June 1973


I remember the time when you could hum along to a Jethro Tull tune. I even remember the time you could hum along to a Yessong. If you attempted either these days you'd undoubtedly choke on your tongue or swallow your tonsils.

And so it is with Tull's latest work — A Passion Play — which they brought, reluctantly perhaps, to London's Empire Pool over the weekend. I have to report it was a gravely dull and disappointing business that, on the first night at least, half-silenced and half-antagonised the crowd. It was only after Tull's delivery of Thick As A Brick and some material from earlier albums that their followers, clutching April 28th ticket stubs, rose to their feet and roared in an approving manner.

With Passion Play Tull seem to have followed the wearying trail of the bulk of our rock intelligentsia: groups like Crimson, Yes, Genesis and ELP, who just won't have it unless they're performing the musical equivalent of a triple reverse somersault every other bar.

It's a wasteful, self-consuming process that British and German bands seem inexorably drawn towards, and although it guarantees the odd splash on The Old Grey Whistle Test, I suspect these bands are moving further and further away from their followers.

There's little warmth of heart to Passion Play and even though it's a remarkably brave and near-perfect accomplishment, you find yourself falling away after the opening minutes.

To be fair on Ian Anderson and Co. there can be few bands around to match their dynamism and finesse, and Passion Play in pure technical terms is difficult to fault. It's amazingly sharp and quick-witted, involving a dazzling light-show and full-colour film sequence — a dream fantasy production with dancers masquerading as newts, bees and hares and a totally insane dialogue. There's no feedback. No one misses cues. No one breaks a string, and for these things I suppose we should be grateful.

Yet, the whole production washed across my mind and I have a feeling it did the same to the majority at the Pool.

Robin Trower's opening set — the first major exposure for the three-piece of Robin, Jim Dewer and Reg Isidore — was far more satisfying. Another faultless performance, but this time with feeling.