reCAP :: Jethro Tull: The Rock Opera Performed by Ian Anderson :: 2015.11.10
On a rainy Tuesday night in Port Chester, Ian Anderson and mates performed, Jethro Tull—The Rock Opera, in the Capitol Theatre. It was a heavy dose of Old Weird England: factories, farms, horses, electric guitars, and Ian’s iconic flute outbursts. The show simultaneously was well-conceived and bizarre —Pink Floyd meets Monty Python in an agricultural tug of war to the music of Mr. Anderson in a quasi-operatic, semi-cinemograph production. There was a big screen behind the band with images of farms and fields, and two virtual performers, vocalists Ryan O’Donnell and Unnur Birna Björnsdóttir. O’Donnell’s fine singing helped fortify and rest Ian’s weary voice.
An early version of “Aqualung” fired-up the crowd. Ian and his big-screen alter-ego traded lines within verses. It sounds like this might have been messy, but it all worked out smoothly. O’Donnell had performed on stage with Ian before on his Thick as a Brick tour, and virtual reality was surprisingly rewarding. Ian pranced around the stage whistling flute and wearing sun glasses. A black bandana covered his cranium. Guitarist, Florian Opahle, cut loose with an outstanding “Aqualung” solo. Ian continued the story of Jethro Tull with some lesser-known numbers from his meaty back pages, and ended the opening set with “Songs from the Wood.” Between the cinematography, and the quality music from the band, there was a lot to digest. I’m inclined to believe that a show from this tour will either be released as a movie or documentary.
After a brief intermission, and minus the glasses and bandana, Anderson opened set two with “And the World Feeds Me.” The tribute to Jethro Tull, the 18th century agriculturist, continued with “Living in the Past” and “Jack in the Green,” the latter song being one of the only tunes Anderson sang in its entirety. Opahle unleashed another fine solo in “Living in the Past,” and the rest of the band featuring, David Goodier on bass, John O’Hara on keyboards, and Scott Hammond on drums, was super-tight all night. The set plowed forward with some early Tull favorites, “Cheap Day Return” and “A New Day Yesterday,” as Ian played flute in his legendary one-foot on the floor and one-knee bent stance. As one might prognosticate, the blockbuster tune was “Locomotive Breath.” Ian and mates once again proved you’re never too old to rock and roll, or too young to plow a field. This splendidly arcane show spliced together opera, theatre, film, and rock and roll. It was a distinctive and memorable night, unlike anything Port Chester has ever seen, and won’t see again, unless Ian returns to give us another taste of Old Weird England.