Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson on his upcoming Atlantic City show at Caesars, Oct. 6.
Don’t bother breaking out the disposable lighters hoping to lure Ian Anderson back to the stage after he performs the final notes of Jethro Tull’s 1972 concept album Thick as a Brick and its 2012 sequel, TAAB 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock?
Anderson, who formed Jethro Tull in 1968 and was in the vanguard of the progressive rock movement, is currently touring with a brand new show that’s 40 years old. In spite of its popularity four decades ago, Thick as a Brick, a 45-minute unbroken piece of prog rock genius, has never been played like in its entirety until now.
Anderson and his band are on tour in support of TAAB 2, which looks — in a musical style similar to the original — at the life of the character 40 years later.
That’s pretty much why Anderson and his band won’t be performing any encores once they complete TAAB Saturday, Oct. 6, at Caesars Atlantic City.
“I think, in this case, the whole evening should be used to bring them something they haven’t heard before,” Anderson told Pollstar magazine earlier this year. “And an encore would be a bit of a surplus. So, no, after two hours plus an intermission I think it’s time to head for the hills and get the hell out of there. I think the audience might be making a run for the doors when we finish the last note.”
Although he only claims to have listened to the original album in its entirety about 20 times over the past 40 years, Anderson, 65, said the music quickly came back to him when he began assembling the sequel last year.
“The words tend to be on the tip of my tongue; that’s not a problem, even on the three-quarters of the album we haven’t played in 40 years,” he said. “The performance of it, the notation, the execution, is not terribly difficult to play. It probably was at the time, but we were pushing our limits as musicians. It’s actually just memorizing the nuances of certain phrases and trying to put it all back together.”
Although Anderson’s instrument of choice is the flute, that’s not his focus when he’s performing TAAB. He’s listening to all the parts in this complex piece.
“For me, it’s not about playing the flute; it’s about the guitar parts,” he explained. “There is a lot of acoustic guitar on the album and a lot of it happens the same time the flute’s playing, and I’m singing — all three at the same time, which is a complete impossibility so I have to share some of those elements with others in the band. ... So I have to be realistic in the performance of both of these albums. There are places I have to offload to other people because it would be imprudent to try to do things absolutely nonstop and always be either singing or playing or, in some cases, having these difficult passages where there are two acoustic guitars, two flutes, vocals, all happening at the same time.”
Anderson also offered some advice to Jethro Tull fans who may be disappointed they won’t hear Tull’s greatest hits in the TAAB show.
“It’s better for me to talk about this in advance and make it clear that we are doing a performance of two conceptual pieces and that is the sum total of the performance,” he said. “If people are disappointed they are not going to hear ‘Aqualung’ or ‘Locomotive Breath’ or ‘Cross-Eyed Mary,’ my suggestion is they give this one a miss and wait for another concert where we will be playing that material, assuming I’m still alive.”
In addition to being one of the founding gods of prog rock, Anderson has also been a successful businessman. He’s made millions of dollars from a variety of diverse business ventures, including salmon farming.
He’s also experienced fame from a different perspective ever since his daughter married actor Andrew Lincoln, who plays Rick Grimes on the popular AMC zombie series The Walking Dead.
“These days, when I’ve been out and about, I’ve thought someone is coming to ask me for my autograph or I’m getting a particularly friendly reaction from a restaurant owner or somebody in a Starbucks, but it actually turns out they’re not interested in me at all,” he said. “They’re interested in my son-in-law ... So they tend to recognize him more often. ‘Oh, it’s him, from the telly!’ They don’t always know his name, but it’s always ‘that guy on the television.’ I just pretend I’m his agent. Or his older lover.”
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