Ian Anderson @ Birmingham Symphony Hall – April 30th 2012

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Review by Dean Pedley

Whatever happened to Gerald Bostock? For the 40th anniversary of Jethro Tull’s 1972 concept album Thick As A Brick front man Ian Anderson decided it was about time this question was answered with the release of cunningly titled sequel Thick As A Brick 2 and tour that finds both albums played in their entirety. The eagle eyed will have noticed this was billed as Ian Anderson and not Jethro Tull, meaning the absence of long-time guitarist (and Birmingham born) Martin Barre. Purists may have raised an eyebrow at Barre’s exclusion but Anderson appears reinvigorated at the prospect of revisiting a decades old piece of music with a different line-up.

It has been apparent on Tull tours of the past decade that Anderson has been struggling to reach all of the notes and he has now come up with the perfect solution to this undoubted problem. The added presence of additional vocalist Ryan O Donnell means there is someone standing alongside him that faithfully recreates the Ian Anderson of the past. There is, naturally much flute accompaniment (some of it even one legged) added to the trademark sardonic wit and whimsy that inspired the original 44 minute suite. Long musical solos trade places with clever wordplay, blended together into one unifying theme of eccentricity.

After the obligatory intermission the sequel picks up convincingly where we had left off, dripping with nostalgia and anorak references to Tull moments of the past. Musically and lyrically it is a rousing success and stands up to comparisons with its predecessor. Making full use of rear screen images we discover just what Gerald has been up to in the intervening years and this includes poignant pictures of the Wiltshire town of Royal Wootton Bassett. There is no encore but then, as with Roger Waters The Wall presentation, none is needed. Even after all these years Anderson remains an irresistible live attraction and performances like these are to be cherished.