On Halloween eve, a group of traveling musicians graced the ears of concert goers at the Rialto Square Theater (15 E. Van Buren ~ Joliet, ILL. 60432). Five men took the stage just after 8:00 P.M. to entertain a full house. Ian Anderson and crew came out quietly and started to play “Life’s A Long Song.” It was a memorable time.
One lone spotlight came on and shined on the main attraction as he strummed away on his half sized acoustic to open up the night. During the entire relaxed sit down performance there wasn’t one bad note played by anyone in the group. It was a flawless evening of music.
Ian Anderson, obviously the person everyone came to see, was having an incredible performance as usual. His guitar playing was just as smooth as ever. He switched from guitar to singing to flute and jumped back again. Sometimes he did it all within a single song. He is a real showman. At one point he put on his spectacles and read a story to the audience that had been initially done by Jethro Tull on Passion Play. “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles” was definitely the highlight of the evening hands down. This may have been the first time the reading had taken place since 1973 and it was long overdue. As Ian usually won’t play much from Passion Play, this came as a shock to most of the true fans. The place was filled with smiles from ear to ear.
The songs selected were aimed at more of the true fans. This show was for the people that had been listening to Jethro Tull for decades. Classic pieces such as “Up To Me,” “Nursie,” and “Budapest” were amongst the songs played, but newer pieces were played as well.
A new song called “Hare in the Wine Cup” is an unreleased ditty about a rabbit that had taken up residence in Ian’s backyard while on tour. Before he had the chance to get home to see it, one of his pets, a terrier, had gotten a hold of poor Mr. Rabbit and there wasn’t much left of him after that. As the song was introduced, Ian explained, that this song was all that they had to remember the little guy with.
A few other works that were heard were “Wondering Again” Bach’s “Prelude in C Major” and another new one called “A Change of Horses.” He also dedicated a song to the previous bass player, Dave Pegg. He explained that Dave enjoyed a drink from time to time and was known to turn blue from excessive drinking. He then introduced the song “In the Grip of Stronger Stuff.”
Everyone waited for the most popular song in the Jethro Tull library to come out. They waited to hear the six note introduction to that song. The group threw everyone off at first when they did “Aqualung” in a completely unique melancholy sounding arrangement. The song was done very much like a Quentin Tarantino movie. The middle came first, then the beginning, and finally came to an end. Some fans seemed to be turned off, but the true fans who have heard this song so many times before, found it to be refreshing. They had taken the song completely apart and put it back together and made a different song out of it. This was no longer the heavy classic rock song that everyone knew so well, but it had become a new work that gave a new feeling to “sitting on a park bench.”
Ian toured again without Martin Barre and Doane Perry, but in those spots were some very worthy and capable musicians. On drums was James Duncan who played with finesse all evening long. Not once did he hit the drums with over exerted force and nor did he have to. The amazing dynamics of this well seasoned professional was a delight to hear. He had very large shoes to fill and did so without a problem at all.
Florian Opahle filled the stage left position on guitar. A few people were asking were Martin was; that they missed Martin. Once Florian played his classical guitar piece in a flamenco style, the crowd welcomed the young six string master with applause as he ripped through quick guitar riffs effortlessly. A little later in the show he had another solo, this time on electric. He nailed a piece by JS Bach and in the middle he put in a Van Halen signature tapping piece as well. He definitely gained the hearts of everyone in the room.
Amazing performances of ebony and ivory were done by Mr. John O’Hara. This incredible musician provided the delicate classical piano sounds, the amazing Hammond B-3 power, and all the sounds and patches needed to make this show perfect. He tore up “Thick as a Brick” and the opening of “Locomotive Breath.” His capabilities were incredible. When the applause came he was motionless in acknowledging the audience. He knew what he did was good and didn’t need to ham it up for the crowd.
Dave Goodier provided the deep notes during the evening that were both heard and felt. The bottom end was the perfect accent to everything being played. During “Bouree” he stepped up to play a middle solo part. He was just phenomenal in everything that he did. Dave also became a multi-instrumentalist during “Thick as a Brick.” He went back and forth during the beginning of the song playing bass with mallets in his hands and teeth to quickly taking the mallets to trigger the notes on a glockenspiel. Everything he did was beautiful.
Ian made mention to the fact that his flutes from time to time wind up in some strange places. As this one legged rock flautist has been the influence to all other flautists since he picked up the instrument, it is truly amazing how far his influence goes. Like let’s say outer space? He made the announcement that one of his flutes made it into the hands of an astronaut that was going to be doing a tour of duty on the International Space Station. She would be bringing the flute with her into outer space. It is amazing how many people this man has touched with his music. He made a further announcement that if you should see a long silver thing floating through space; it may be that the rest of the crew got tired of listening to it being played.
The show may have been the best Ian Anderson show ever. The crowd had their ears graced by music provided by the five outstanding men on stage. As the flawless evening came to close it left concert goers happy and smiling. Over two hours into the show, it ended way too soon. The group of traveling musicians disappeared into the night hopefully to return again. We will be looking for them to return.