(November 1st, 2012 – Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee, WI.)
Watching the Minstrel from the Gallery
From our perch high up in the Gallery at the Pabst Theatre last night we witnessed a spectacle of musical diversion not seen in the Midwest in a very long time. Ian Anderson and “chums” performed the classic prog-rock concept album Thick As A Brick 1 AND its new companion album Thick As A Brick 2 back-to-back, live, on-stage. It was an event of extraordinary performance art, head banging rock, musical theatre, visual arts and one great, kick-ass piece of mind-boggling musical entertainment. Ian Anderson, long-time front-man for Jethro Tull, is unarguably one of the most charismatic performers in the industry and the world’s most gifted flautist. And he proved it last night.
Replete with a new touring band and a new backup singer who sounds astonishingly like a young Ian Anderson the band played through Thick As A Brick 1 & 2 in an energetic, theatrical performance. New and well-known melodies and themes were resurrected and rolled up into a suite of profound sound and expanded into a two-and-a-half-hour adrenaline-filled show. Ian Anderson’s robust vocals, shared with Ryan O’Donnell, were solid and his flute and acoustic guitar work flawless. Lead guitarist, Florian Ophale, a gifted musician, definitely did his homework as both his lead and rhythm works were outstanding. Keyboardist, John O’Hara, is a talented and multi-layered instrumentalist that utilized the piano, organs, and an accordion throughout the performance. Drummer, Scott Hammond, was fluent, fluid, and provided a jarring, romping five minute drum solo that rocked the house.
All in all, this was one of the very best throw-back rock concerts I’ve attended in recent years (beating out Eric Clapton, Santana, and yes, even Pearl Jam) and in my opinion, fulfilled every Tull fan's most fervent dream… stripped-down folksy acoustic guitar, flute musings, rollicking electric guitars and synthesizers bracketed by tight rhythm-section accompaniment, inspired musicianship, entertaining visual performance art (at one point Ryan O’Donnell sat on stage pretending to read a copy of PROG magazine), and the liquid but brawny vocals and humorous storytelling of Ian Anderson. Not surprisingly, this performance, as well as their entire body of music over the past forty years, incorporated elements of classical music, theater, English folk music, jazz, British humor, hard rock, erudite storytelling, and art rock into their sound. Exactly what every fan there came to see.
Performance 5 out of 5 stars
Musicality 6 out of 5 stars
Visual arts and storytelling 5 out of 5 stars