Ian Anderson

Concert Hall, December 11

Jethro Tull 2011
Ian Anderson leads four men in search of the Opera House.

Ian Anderson may be the first rock star to lead a cover band doing his own material. Having fronted Jethro Tull from 1967 until its apparent demise earlier this year he now performs under his own name a live repertoire that is billed as the “best of Jethro Tull”.

After several Tull tours where his damaged voice was barely audible Anderson had a solution of sorts in the form of Ryan O’Donnell – not so much a backing singer as a co-singer. O’Donnell is young, likable, energetic, talented and amusing, and, given Anderson’s strain to reach so many notes, he could even take more of the lead vocals, and certainly double Anderson’s parts more of the time. Yet when he did take over you had this odd feeling of a bloke fronting a Jethro Tull tribute band.

Similarly Florian Opahle played a sunburst Les Paul guitar, just as Martin Barre, Tull’s second longest-serving and second most important member (in terms of defining the sound), did in the band’s heyday. Like O’Donnell, Opahle is very good at what he does, and played an incendiary solo on Aqualung, but he was more or less obliged to channel Barre simply to realise the songs.

Further contributing to the cover-band impression was the fact that, probably in order to help make Anderson’s voice audible, this was much softer than any version of Tull. I suspect that the on-stage levels were a whisper compared with Tull’s shout, which no doubt played its part in the front-of-house sound being exceptional, if lacking any sense of raw danger.

In advance Anderson had promised the complete Thick As A Brick, but in fact they only played about half of it. Among the songs from his new Homo Erraticus album Doggerland stood out. The rest of the material was well chosen and accompanied by clever and sometimes hilarious big-screen imagery and action. It’s probably the best Jethro Tull cover band in the world.