High Court HillBilly: Jethro Tull at Red Rocks
How lucky the creators of Aqualung; Ian Anderson, and Martin Barre; came halfway across the world to a 65 Million year old red stone amphitheater in Colorado under a cool early June evening sky, to recreate one of the seminal rock albums in history.
With the help of musicians David Goodier (Bass guitar and double bass), John O'Hara (piano, keyboards and accordion), Doane Perry (Drums and Percussion), Tull’s 5-piece band reminded Classic Rock remains classic, as we remain coupled to and brought back to our youth when we hear it again.
This carries the double-edge sword of age, as my partner discovered navigating the 50 plus crowd of knowing older men, being professionally assaulted in both directions and at the bar, with multiple offers. She returned, thankfully, disheveled with wet hands and cups half full, to this older man.
Yet our graying herd has matured from that summer night in another June 40 years ago, when we jumped from the rocks and even the police were still learning how to attend a rock concert [Los Angeles Free Press 1971]. This time Tull started Aqualung without the studio version’s strident intro riff; rather an easy, acoustic ‘..old man wandering lonely…’ and we were, and all are, aren’t we? The Tull crowd is a thinking rockers crowd, but I wish we had more ‘Jam Demand’ when I heard Martin Barre briefly punch away when the stomping chords to 'AquaLung' broke out and boomed around the rocks. To have Barre, the original guitarist on AquaLung, let loose on this classic riff was the highlight of my night, and when the band jammed any of the Tull repertoire, it was sublime heaven.
Like on ‘Boiree’, which Ian called ‘Our Cruise Ship version of Bach’. Breathy flute notes floated in and out and over the red stone to lighted Denver plains, a soundtrack stretching past my childhood into the crowd’s shared collective love of melody. Anderson jokes he chose the flute after realizing he could not play guitar better then Clapton. Tull’s pantheon of flute as Rock lead sets a landmark leading in and out to other musical forms. Tull’s music can be anytime, anywhere, any genre: A hilltop in Appalachia; a kings court; a farm by the freeway; a freezing dirty street eating a dog end.
Hearing it live, I have that familiar feeling when I hear the great tunes after too much time: Why have I waited so long to hear this again? Where is that old cassette? Where in this car can I stick it?!
Ian acknowledged the music changed, at least according to critics, over time. He introduced Side 1 of Thick As a Brick “From the ‘up your ass’ progressive music period in 1972”, and proceeded to dish out what for some fans is the only album, I mean the ONLY album they listen to at all, again and again. Here ‘Thick as a Brick’ was a missed opportunity to jam longer: for example on the dueling guitars crossover to the finale on side one, one of my favorite musical bridges. I understand people want a set list, and people want to hear ‘their’ song, but this is my review and I can ask for whatever I want. I want Brick all night, and the guitar bridge before ‘Where the hell was Biggles” can’t be jammed long enough.
The artists assembled around Anderson and Barre were solid, and at times, as good. John O'Hara’s accordion in “Songs From the Wood’ was a treat, introduced sardonically by Ian as their ‘Folk Rock Songs period.’
The clock is ticking for me, for you, and for the original creators of Tull’s music. Catching them live is a must, and though we all must age, the flute does not. Ian does it all, Lead, Beat, Keyboard, medieval guitar, and conductor. Cross-Eyed Mary stormed in sounding like a full piece orchestra, ‘Mother Goose’ throttled back as O’Hara moved from accordion to Bongo’s, ‘My God’ was as new as ever, having been written before the huge church sex scandal, and still timely. Ian finished with a rousing flute solo, as really, he was the first to question the church from the Rock Pulpit.
The softer side of Aqualung was perfect for the summer night air, ‘Slipstream’ floated past, and we were taught how not to play the game, into the seminal ‘Locomotive Breath’, with no way to slow down, and back to the 'Aqualung' medley.