Jethro Tull's Aqualung 40th Anniversary Review: USA 2011 Tour in Chicago

By Raymond Britt

In 1971, Jethro Tull recorded the band's masterpiece album, Aqualung, and celebrated the record's release by kicking off its US tour in Chicago, performing at the Lyric Opera House in April of that year.

Four decades later, Jethro Tull returned to Chicago to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Aqualung with a powerful concert at the Rosemont Theater that thrilled the capacity crowd from the first notes of Living in the Past to the final notes of an extended Locomotive Breath. In-between, Tull treated concert-goers with a wide range of songs from its extensive catalog, including eight songs from the Aqualung album.

In fact, the set list of the 2011 Rosemont show had more than a passing resemblance to the 1971 Opera House concert; both concerts featured rocking versions of Bouree, Cross-Eyed Mary, Hymn 43, My God, Locomotive Breath and Aqualung.

Ian Anderson and Martin Barre, the only remaining member from the 1971 era, played several other tunes from the Aqualung album --  Up to Me, Cheap Day Return, and the 'whimsical' Mother Goose -- as if the forty years had never passed. Other members included Doane Perry, drummer off-and-on since 1980 or so. Relative newcomers David Goodier on bass and John O'Hara on keyboards and accordion have been with Tull and Ian Anderson's solo projects since 2003.

The acoustics in the Rosemont Theater brought out subtle but impressive tonal elements, particularly louder, crisper drums and full-body keyboards that had seemed muffled in other recent concerts. While Martin Barre seemed content with a mid-range sound when playing rhythm parts, his lead guitar and power-chord playing jumped out of the venue's speakers with absolute authority. If anything, David Goodier's fretless bass was the only sound that seemed understated.

Tull's Rosemont show setlist was rounded out by Thick as a Brick, Songs from the Wood, Farm on the Freeway and Budapest, was abbreviated compared to others on the band's North American tour. (The event featured another classic rock (light rock, actually) band that was also popular in the 1970s, America, who delivered a surprisingly lively and entertaining set).

Tull's rock solid performance brought the crowd to its feet with the set closer Aqualung, which let Martin Barre cut loose on what's been ranked as one of top guitar solo of all time. The audience remained in standing ovation formation as John O'Hara quickly returned to kick off Tull's classic encore, Locomotive  Breath, with a section of Teacher thrown in, to end the evening on a high note.

Forty years since Aqualung was recorded, four decades since Tull brought Aqualung to Chicago audiences for the first time. Sounds better than ever, and I expect the same from the 50th anniversary tour in 2021. Tickets go on sale in 3500 days or so.

 For more, see