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NEW MUSICAL EXPRESS
6 March 1971
Gaumont State Theatre, 26 February 1971
Within a society which is sometimes prone to exonerate pretentiousness and false piety, Jethro Tull have retained the criterion that entertaining an audience is the all-important maxim of their visual presentation. Amid a flurry of arms, elbows, hair, grimaces, knees and the compulsory pointed toe, Ian Anderson has created an on-stage imagery which has firmly placed him among rock's leading front men. However, he hasn't let his maniacal pose transgress into Frankenstein proportions, for with an astute and level head he has reached the point where he can now send himself up to an acceptable point, yet never over-step the fine line which would result in people laughing at him as opposed to laughing with him.
On Friday night, at the Gaumont State mausoleum in downtown Kilburn, Jethro gave an object lesson in stage craft; my personal observations being that absolutely nothing is left to chance to the extent that careful timing plays a most integral part in their diverse performance. Though for the time being they still choose to envelope virtually everything with brash, vaudevillian humour, this could in time prove to be a distraction instead of a valid asset. But such has been their universal acceptance that I'm sure the group must be aware of the direction in which they will choose to project themselves.
From the minute Ian entered stage left bathed in dramatic blue lighting for an acoustic guitar intro to 'My God', the tension started to build, prior to the rest of the group stealthily creeping to their instruments to join him half way through the song, adding to the drama. From then on in, the continuity was tight and constructive with spotlighting, exits and entrances sustaining the impact and transfixing the spectators' attention.
Next, they offered the title track from their soon-to-be-released album, 'Aqualung', which featured a double-tempo rock interlude and spoke well of future excursions in this vein. Since the addition of John Evan on organ and piano, the group's visual aspects have broadened with Mr Evan wandering aimlessly around the stage in a large, white baggy suit looking akin to Harpo Marx. Yet it must be said that during his many solo passages, most notable being 'With You There To Help Me', he overshadowed Ian during intricate interweaving solo passages.
Yet another new album cut, 'Cross Eyed Mary', became a vehicle for the percussive talents of Clive Bunker, a much underrated musician who in both his backing and solo capacity has a great deal to offer, though seated at the back he is quite innocently upstaged by his cohorts. 'Nothing Is Easy' was well received by virtue of its familiarity and also in that it was the last number.
As expected an encore was called for and following a respectable time lapse they re-appeared to premier another one of Ian's cynical God-rock compositions 'Wind Up'. An extended number, it was memorable for its interlude which gave Martin Barre ample opportunity to display his very personal guitar technique with just Clive in support. Again, this was most indicative of the high individual talents which Jethro encompasses. Newcomer, the near-mythical Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond on bass appears to be an introverted character and seemed to content himself with acting as a musical link-man within the context of the group ... no more ... no less.
As 'Wind Up' approached its conclusion, the members of the group quietly vacated the stage one-by-one until Ian was left to deliver the musical punch-line, prior to waving goodnight and loping off into the wings to sustained applause.
In their opening spot, Steeleye Span warmed the audience with a selection of rearranged traditional ballads, songs and reels; the highlight being a cappella treatment of 'King' and the Buddy Holly classic 'Rave On'. Following in the wake of Pentangle and Fairport Convention, Steeleye Span are a very fine little band especially when one considers that it contains such superb musicians as violinist Pete Knight, guitarist and dulcimer player Tim Hart plus Ashley 'Tyger' Hutchings on bass and the renowned Martin Carthy on guitar. Completing the group is vocalist and spoons basher Maddy Prior whose little poems helped immensely to loosen up the audience in such a sombre auditorium.
Thanks to Elwyn Davies for this article