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20 September - 3 Octber 1984
(Issue no. 77)
Ripping off white sheets draped over their heads, Jethro Tull unveiled their new sound and stage show on their 'Under Wraps' tour. After a brace of gigs further north, Ian Anderson and his ever youthful crew arrived in Birmingham ready to do battle. And, like all Tull gigs, they boxed clever, building the excitement and tension towards a rocking finale.
One of the high spots was an astounding duel between new drummer Doane Perry and pianist Peter-John Vitesse [sic]. The latter revealed himself to be a magnificent technician with a dazzling turn of speed and a real grasp of jazz improvisation. Many a rock keyboard player rambles incoherently or falls back on clichés when presented with solo space. Peter played like a cross between Franz Liszt and Bud Powell, flurries of notes shooting off with meteoric speed across a dynamic barrage from Doane Perry, whose big, fat double bass-drum Perl kit sounded like a battery of Howitzers at the Battle of the Somme.
The fans seemed almost overwhelmed by this sudden outburst and didn't cheer as loudly as they should have done. But then Tull music is meant for listening to, not for extravagant displays of wild exuberance. Ian Anderson talked so quietly between numbers, in was like a chat between friends in a bedsit, but somehow this gripped the attention far more than shouts of: 'do yer feel awlright?!'.
Ian, the master flute player, guitarist, singer, composer and honoured band leader of British rock can be proud of his new outfit, which is leavened by vital contributions from stalwarts Martin Barre on lead guitar and Dave Pegg on bass guitar.
Martin ripped out some powerful solos as the band worked through 'Under Wraps', 'Later, That Same Evening', 'Nobody's Car' and 'European Legacy'. But while I enjoyed the new songs, the best moment of the night for most discerning Tull fans was when Ian dusted off the old favourite 'Serenade To A Cuckoo', written by Roland Kirk and featured on Tull's 1968 classic album 'This Was'.
And when the band ground out the savage riff of 'Aqualung' and 'Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll' the fans surged down to the front, all 8,000 of them, throwing caution to the winds, headbanging and gesticulating wildly.
It was enough to make an old flautist very happy.