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29 July 1972
BEWILDERED BY JETHRO'S GORILLA
Jethro Tull climaxed their world tour with a tremendous performance of Thick As A Brick in Tokyo last week. Despite an exhausting schedule of concerts that took them all the way from America to Australia, Tull sounded as fresh and committed as they did when 'Brick' was premiered in England two months ago.
Their humour and timing was just as sharp although guitarist Martin Barre later confirmed that the unexpected sound of English laughter from the audience had spurred them on.
Most Tull fans will now be familiar with their opening routine. The group shuffle on stage in white raincoats and fumble with the equipment like plain clothes detectives.
When the coats are thrown off, a roar of recognition goes up. Unfortunately at the Koselnemkin Hall, the sultry heat had put Martin's guitar out of tune, and some 40 minutes of fumbling elapsed, while a hapless Jeffery Hammond-Hammond was forced to prolong stage antics scheduled to last only a few moments. It threatened to spoil the show, but when Ian Anderson appeared and murmured: "So sorry we're late," all was forgiven.
The theatre was ideal for Tull's presentation, in which good lighting and acoustics are vital. All tickets had sold out three weeks previously and the hip Japanese teenagers were obviously familiar with the music, although their general behaviour was polite and reserved. Rather like Dutch rock fans.
The only shouts and oaths came from the contingent of American young people who live or are on vacation in Japan.
The band seem to have tightened up considerably and playing particularly well were drummer Barrimore Barlow and Mr. Barre on guitar. Their forte is the use of dynamics, and they are experts at contrasting volume levels between Ian's flute and acoustic guitar, and more violent organ and guitar sections.
The arrangements were flawless, but a weak point seemed a tendency to repeat certain unison phrases over too many choruses. John Evan's organ tones were occasionally lacking in colour.
But these are only minor criticisms of a beautifully conceived show that has few peers in rock. Apart from the lengthy 'Brick' saga, other favourites include the powerful main title from Aqualung, and John Evan's bravura reading of the weather forecast.
Guest appearances by various roadies in rabbit and gorilla suits made me laugh, even if the Japanese were slightly bewildered. Best moment — when the gorilla, who walked on after 'Brick', began taking flash photographs of the audience.
Ian's facility on flute is now being matched by his increasingly enjoyable acoustic guitar work. He is still the central pivot of the band, but each player has a defined role, and Tull seem much more of a cohesive unit.
Barry's drum solo was a highlight, featuring his fast, attacking style. And he showed a sense of humour too with a comic finale involving a specially rigged choke cymbal up front. When struck, after a great deal of posing in red underwear by Mr. Barlowe, it was mysteriously answered from the wings. Within seconds the rest of the group came dancing on stage in a lunatic ballet, bathed in flickering strobe light beating cymbals. It was pure pantomime that drew amazed cheers.
Ian is now working on Tull's next album, and an entirely new stage act is being planned for next year. Jethro Tull are a band that never stop working to perfect and improve their show. And it explains why a band once resident at a Soho club can now tour the planet and delight fans from Los Angeles to Melbourne and Tokyo.
Thanks to Harry Auras for this article.