It's quite amazing to think about, especially in this day and age of technological advances and progress, that a middle-aged man playing a flute and singing tales of ancient folklore can evoke such a passionate, fevered response from a paying audience. So is the case of Ian Anderson, lead singer, flautist, multi-instrumentalist and oracle of the madrigal/folk-rock band Jethro Tull. Anderson made a rare solo appearance at Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall last Thursday night and many loud Tull fans came out in droves to hear the quizzical and charismatic front man sing and tell his own brand of stories and anecdotes.
Jethro Tull, formed in England in the late 1960s, has had a strong hold over a very loyal and dedicated fan base ever since their 1968 debut album This Was. Mixing blues rock with a more prog-rock sound and throwing in a bit of avant-jazz, Tull's sound was as unusual as it was fascinating. Not completely heavy metal or folk, but somewhere in between those two genres, Jethro Tull continued to intrigue and elate its audience well into the '70s with now-classic albums such as 1971's Aqualung and its follow up Thick As A Brick. It's been said that once a Jethro Tull fan, always a Jethro Tull fan and Thursday night's vocal and appreciative crowd certainly helped to uphold that mantra.
Starting promptly at 8:05, this event billed as "An Evening with Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson" had the makings of a very long night. After all, a large chunk of Tull's catalog consists of very, very long songs and suites. As one of the bands within the prog-rock genre who saw no danger in committing an entire album side to a single song (along with Yes and Emerson, Lake and Palmer), Jethro Tull are no strangers to lengthy, twisted, complicated and intricate pieces of music. And, as expected, Anderson scored the biggest and most passionate responses from his audience when he delved into the title tracks of the afore-mentioned '70s signature pieces although those were saved for the end of the night.