Jethro Tull, Symphony Hall, Birmingham - review and pictures

By Kirsten Rawlins | Music | Published:

Jethro Tull fans young and old united to celebrate 50 years of the iconic prog rockers as the five piece astounded with a tremendously powerful show.

Ian Anderson. Pic: Nick Harrison

The band may have had more than 30 members since its conception in the 60s, but the group's output last night was tight and clean from start to end, with a passion and effortless unity that put many artists' live shows to shame.

Jethro Tull. Pic: Nick Harrison

Led by legendary multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Ian Anderson, Jethro Tull flew through a huge range of the band's extensive back catalogue, with Ian wowing on the flute, harmonica and acoustic guitar at every turn.

And despite now being 70, neither his energy, stage presence or wacky, wicked sense of humour has waned - very much to fans' delight.

Ian Anderson. Pic: Nick Harrison

This was immediately apparent from the get-go, with Ian running on to the stage as the band kicked off the show with 1968 number My Sunday Feeling, and continued for the set's entirety as he showed off his signature one-legged flute stance, kicked his legs in the air and rocked out to the hefty riffs and beats.

It will come as no huge surprise to those who have extensive knowledge of the frontman that Ian's vocals are no longer what they once were, but tragically the star did seem to struggle last night. While it was very sad to see for fans, this certainly did not ruin the show however, and he more than made for it with his phenomenal, unique skill on the flute and great showmanship.

Ian Anderson. Pic: Nick Harrison


Video clips of huge stars were shown on the backdrop, wishing the band well for the 50th anniversary and requesting or introducing songs from Jethro Tull's past throughout the show. Among these were Slash, Def Leppard's Joe Elliot, Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi, guitar virtuoso Joe Bonamassa and many more. Previous members also appeared, including artist and former Tull bassist Jeffrey 'Hammond-Hammond', who requested 1968 hit A Song For Jeffrey.

Jethro Tull. Pic: Nick Harrison

Huge hits and charming stories followed, with top songs such as Dharma For One, Living In The Past, Bourée, Witches Promise and Cross Eyed Mary performed with tremendous power and talent, as Ian told tales of the group's history.

Among the highlights was an excellent rendition of what is among the band's biggest hits, 1972 album title track Thick As A Brick, which saw guitarist Florian Ophale and keyboardist John O'Hara astound the crowd with their outstanding musical skill as they played before a backdrop of a brick wall bearing lines from the iconic number.


Jethro Tull. Pic: Nick Harrison

"It's funny how prog rock touched so many people who never had anything to do with prog rock," explained Ian, dressed in a white t-shirt, black waistcoat and jeans.

"Marc Almond, who is a good friend of mine, wanted to be in a prog rock band but he missed the boat and had to go into synth pop instead."

Jethro Tull guitarist Florian Ophale. Pic: Nick Harrison

"Another was a heavy metal man - you may have heard of him," added Ian, before Iron Maiden's Steve Harris appeared on the backdrop screen, wishing the band a happy birthday and revealing he has been a Tull fan for 45 years.

Too Old To Rock 'n' Roll: Too Young To Die, Songs From The Wood, and Heavy Horses followed, before the band treated the audience to a tremendous rendition of Aqualung - as requested by Slash (and described by his rock highness as 'one of rock 'n' roll's greatest songs').

Jethro Tull bassist David Goodier. Pic: Nick Harrison

After briefly leaving the stage, Jethro Tull returned for an encore to play 1971 fan favourite Locomotive Breath, before bidding the crowd goodnight.

The audience responded with a well-deserved standing ovation and left the venue still thrilled by the band's sheer force.

Jethro Tull's keyboardist John O'Hara. Pic: Nick Harrison

They may have been going for half a century, but long may Tull reign as prog rock royalty - and, hopefully, return the the Midlands again soon.

Kirsten Rawlins

By Kirsten Rawlins

Online Entertainment Editor for the Express & Star and Shropshire Star. E-mail me, or phone 01902 319368


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