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1 April 1972


(Royal Albert Hall, 21 March 1972)

For some time, there have been threats by prominent groups that they will bring circus effects to their shows: clowns, elephants, jugglers and the Big Top. It's reassuring to find showbiz is alive in rock and that theatricality is never far away — but Jethro Tull prove that such excesses are totally unnecessary for them. Their own circus is all-human, totally man-made and all the better for that.

The general misconception of the group as being one man in check pants standing on one leg playing a flute is quickly being wiped out, and musically they are coming up fast and strong as one of our most biting, creative units with a penchant for well-written, extended works.

Ian Anderson is, of course, still cavorting around brilliantly, playing the Pied Piper, and Martin Barre still plays the fall guy in their unfunny attempts to be funny. But at London's Albert Hall last Tuesday Anderson demonstrated again why Jethro's popularity is still building and why they are jamming concert halls with the converted throughout Britain.

It's because they are a perfect blend of rock and showbiz.

From the moment they came out disguised in white raincoats and flat caps and wandered about the stage, unrecognised by the audience, until they left two and a half hours later, very few eyes could have stopped focusing on their magnetic presence, their overwhelming drive.

Their new album Thick As A Brick is attempting to become the tour-de-force that once was Aqualung alone. It is not nearly so explicit, but composer Ian Anderson's healthy obsession with little boys, the underdog and authority is again evident in some spectacularly incisive writing.

Ian is an underrated acoustic guitarist who opened the show in style, and his flute playing flows cleanly. Yet he should beware of over-long solos and of waiting for too long for the dynamics of guitars to bring back the pace. When the guitars do return, the boiling, fierce, peculiarly Tullian sound is remarkable — but several times, rather long flute solos could have been chopped down with effect.

It was strange to find them ending with an Aqualung sequence. They run the risk of allowing that master work to eclipse other inventions, and it was odd that the forceful Anderson hadn't confidence to wind up with Thick As A Brick. He might regret not projecting his new work as a finale: ask Pete Townshend.

But nothing can obscure the fact that Jethro Tull's creative energy is like a breath of air. Unpretentious and fun-loving, yet always playing extremely well, they have that rare ability to laugh at themselves. That alone is therapeutic for both musicians and audience.