Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson: Chicago Solo Tour 2010 Concert Review

By Raymond Britt Special to the Chicago Tribune 10/31/10

A few weeks ago, Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson told me to expect the unexpected when his solo tour arrived in Joliet to perform at the Rialto Square Theater (Saturday night, October 30, 2010). He promised a set that dug deep into the Tull catalog, presented several new songs, reinterpreted fan favorites, and even a surprise or two for good measure.

A couple of hours before Ian and his band took to the stage, keyboardist and occasional orchestral conductor John O’Hara gave us a further insight about what to expect. Not only was the set as varied as promised, but Ian had challenged the band itself, with last-minute rearrangements and key changes – on Aqualung, for example — and even a completely new, untitled song, written in the last two weeks.

The preview comments promised such potential – for great moments, but also for the possibility that things might get out of hand. Not one to take the easy path, Ian was going to take the band and the audience to the edge.

And it worked. On all fronts. Classics, new songs, orchestral interpretations, rearranged classics. On the whole, outstanding material, performed by a top-notch band, to an enthusiastic audience who came for Tull material, and left with that and more.

I’ve seen Jethro Tull performances in arenas in the 1970s to Chicago’s Lyric Opera House and Highland Park’s Ravinia Festival, and I’ve seen Ian perform on his Rubbing Elbows, Orchestral and 5-piece band solo tours. Of all of them, this performance was among the best. Why?

Because of the chances Ian took, because of the places the music took the audience, and because of the strength of the material, whether old (Life’s A Long Song, Bouree) new (New Song, Adrift and Dumbfounded), borrowed (Bach’s Prelude in C Major, and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor), and reborn (fresh reinterpretations of Thick as a Brick, Aqualung and Locomotive Breath).

We were told to expect the unexpected, we got it, and then some (how about a full reading of A Passion Play’s The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles? Yes, really).

And it was terrific.

Ian pushed the band, and the band ran with it. John O’Hara on keyboards and accordion, David Goodier on fretless bass on assorted percussion, Florian Ophale on classical and electric guitar, and Scott Hammond on drums – all locked into a groove with Ian and never looked back.

Whether on a quiet acoustic number like Wond’ring Aloud, a stealth-rocker like Budapest, a nearly 15-minute extended version of Thick as a Brick, or the translation of the orchestral arrangement of Aqualung, the band rose to the occasion.

And so did the audience, delivering well-deserved standing ovations, several of them, as the evening wound to a close with one final, and slightly unexpected turn in an expected closer: a new arrangement of Locomotive Breath.

Unexpected? Of course. Outstanding? Absolutely.