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24 November 1999
Jethro Tull, Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
22 November 1999
Ian Anderson was once quoted as saying that he only wrote two types of song because he was interested in only two ideas. By the sounds of their only Scottish appearance of the latest Tull tour, 31 years after they first appeared with their half-baked bombastic, bluesy, airy-fairy, folky freak-out, clearly two songs is stretching it a bit. The faithful still almost fill the hall, however, although the number of long-haired afghan coat-wearing types is disappointingly low. Instead a mix of respectable middle-aged couples and T-shirt-wearing fans ensure that the prog landmarks of old — 'For A Thousand Mothers' or 'Hunt By Numbers' [sic], or tantalising bits of their 1971 blockbuster opus 'Aqualung', each of which bridge the wobbly mediocrity of material from the new Dot.Com album — are greeted with determined whoops and cheers.
At 52, Edinburgh-born Anderson is no longer the bug-eyed, codpieced madman that he once was but he still has a game try, making cavalier flourishes with his hands, skipping across the stage like a stagestruck Squirrel Nutkin while warbling on his flute, or making cringing phallic gestures with his musical magic wand.
Is he for real? He is, standing like a Swan Lake stork for solo-tribblings, hopping around, play-boxing with Martin Barre's laboured guitar solos and generally maintaining the hardy back-catalogue image of Tull as playful Elizabethan minstrels or dribbling, turgid codswallop, depending on your taste. Prog keyboard intros and the largest drum kit known in modern rock add to the ludicrous Spinal Tap overtones. Where is the miniature Stonehenge with the prancing dwarves?
Never mind, there's always the man in the bunny suit who appears briefly on stage in 'The Hare That Lost His Spectacles' [sic]. This rambling fairytale appeared on Tull's defining moment, A Passion Play, a one-song concept album that reached No1 in America, brought them outright derision in Britain and made Anderson sulk for several months because the fans presumably had got sick of paying for just one song.
Now the Tull play many songs, and thankfully they are short ones. In the middle of this burbling, annoying mess, however, there was one song that should have been longer — the Roland Kirk cover that Tull originally recorded in 1968, which harked back to Anderson's musical origins in bluesy jazz and which still sounds miles ahead of the rest of their output. But then, had that happened, it would have meant an end to Anderson playing the fool.