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5 July 1973


in concert at the Municipal Auditorium arena

In what was undoubtedly the year's most smoothly executed rock concert, Jethro Tull played to a capacity crowd in the arena last night. The focal point of the performance was A Passion Play, the latest in Tull's string of masterful concept albums and concert pieces.

Long before the houselights dimmed, a pulsing sound began to issue from the speakers, gradually increasing in intensity as a screen rolled down ominously at the back of the stage. As the audience was drawn further into a state of "willing suspension of disbelief," a white spot pulsed and grew into the film image of a ballerina. Simultaneously beautiful and grotesque, she rose and leapt, in a Dali-esque sequence, through a mirror as the group emerged from a cloud of smoke onstage.

The musical quality of a Jethro Tull concert can almost be taken for granted. Under the direction of Ian Anderson, flutist-vocalist-composer, each instrument fills its own well-disciplined niche, without much room for jamming around. A Passion Play moved like a technically augmented operetta, an hour and a half of intriguing new music punctuated by slices of film, which, like the music, sprang from the conception and direction of Anderson. Perhaps the audience should have been provided with libretto, for the parable lost a bit of its impact because of the difficulties in projecting the subtleties of Anderson's lyrics through the echoing hall.

Anderson, who has come to personify Jethro Tull, attacked the flute more ferociously than ever, lacing in some mad vocal licks. He even performed briefly on soprano saxophone, and from his Fagin-like stance put a few surprising touches on excerpts from Aqualung and Thick As A Brick.

The real fascination of the evening lay in watching Jethro Tull play cat-and-mouse with their audience, keeping the suspense level high with professional precision. From time to time the music froze to a halt as the Tull members inspected a telephone stage right. Known to have occasioned strange happenings in the past, the "Tull-phone" was provocatively silent throughout the evening, though a spotlight often revealed it lurking suspiciously to the side.

The tension finally broke as the phone shrilly sounded on the finishing note of the Tull encore, an extended version of 'Wind-Up'. Picking up the receiver, Anderson extended it toward his audience, smiling cryptically,

"It's for you."