The original baby boomer bands are old now. And I mean truly old. You know what the definition of an old person is? Someone who is 15 years older than yourself. Well, that means that even for someone like me, who makes dirt look young, can stand back and say, “damn, that guy is old” when I watch the baby boomer bands. I had that experience last Saturday night at the Mann Music Center in Philly.
Jethro Tull was in town. Jethro Tull! Now, I’ve seen Tull a bunch of times, but not for many moons. The last time I saw Tull, my hair was still dark and a bit longer than the way I wear it now. Yet, early this year, when I saw that JT was coming around for their 50th Anniversary tour, something touched me deep inside and I went out and bought some tickets.
Disclosure: I am a huge Tull fan. I probably have 10 of their studio albums on vinyl. And I have a few on CD and on the digital devices. I stream them on Spotify.
As a result, I was pretty psyched for this show. I had had a late summer break from rock ‘n roll while I was traveling and messing around, and I was ready for some classic rock to bring the summer to a close. The Mann is a great venue with terrific acoustics and good seats and sight lines. I had good (but not great) seats. I primed the pump by listening to a few Tull albums during the week, and was all set up to rock it out on Saturday. Yum.
Can you smell trouble brewing? Well, it surely ain’t Maxwell House. The first hint of “uh oh” was that pictures weren’t allowed during the show. Hahaha, yeah, I’ll follow that rule Mr. Usher. Here’s a couple of shots just to prove that some people aren’t deterred by the rules. Be happy that your humble little rules breaker has a few shots to fill the screen so that you can have some digital idea of what real life was like at the Mann last Saturday.
Trouble continued when I looked at the crowd. Let’s give credit that a lot of people who are OLD still like to rock out. But let’s also give a little bit of disrespect to them, too. I mean, Tull is flashing up pictures of the hippie generation in their youth, and there was style and pride going on back then. Now? Hey, sweat pants, gym shorts and a lot of synthetic fibers sort of kills the mood. C’mon, people, earn some style points, will you? I remember when I was at VT that we had a nickname for one particularly poorly dressed fellow student: No Pride. Well, No Pride must have been a trendsetter given the slovenly look of the JT crowd.
And then the lights dimmed and the band took the stage. Sure, I was expecting a lot of session players, and that’s what I got. That’s cool because session musicians are usually damn good. But I was also expecting Ian Anderson to still be able to bring it. Maybe not like in his 20s or 30s, but McCartney can still carry a 2.5 hour show with full voice and energy, so why not a younger dude like Anderson? Ian can still play the flute like a maestro and can still move about the stage quite well.
But his voice!
I remember when my kids were in middle school musicals and they needed boys to sing some lead songs. Often, they had the boy kind of talk the lyrics rather than sing them. Anderson couldn’t even do that very well. He tried to bluff his way through the songs, but at the end, the dude was struggling to even speak the lyrics in time with the tunes. And you know trouble is on hand when they have others take the lead and sing the song. I saw that happen with Steely Dan a few years back when Donald Fagen turned over the lead to some background singers on a few songs. Jethro Tull turned over the singing duties to the bass player on one song, and then turned them over to some pre-recorded unknowns who were on the video screen behind the stage. Seriously? You can’t even pay some money to drag along someone who still has the vocal chops and instead record them on video and sell that as seeing Jethro Tull live? Bah.
That being said, some of the songs aren’t as vocally demanding or feature lengthy musical interludes, and these were great. Think Bouree. And others are just so iconic that, even somewhat butchered, they remain in the pantheon of great rock songs. Think Aqualung and Locomotive Breath. And the session guys were very musically gifted and played the right notes at the right times thus driving deep nostalgia in BRP. I wish that the song selection had been my own version of Jethro Tull’s greatest hits, but the songs played covered the 50 years quite well.
There was no opener, and the show started on time. Tull played two sets, both well short of an hour, and then one encore. A quick exit from the strategically parked concert car, and I was home in a flash. In fact, home in time to catch the end of Penn State’s demolition of Pitt. (Speaking of college football, the Hokies throttled William and Mary, a ho-hum early season matchup, and the Good Guys sit comfortably in the top 15).
Here’s my conclusion from this show: I’m pretty much done with the baby boomer classic rock bands. Sure, there might be an exception made every now and again, particularly if the tickets are FREE. (I remember when I used to drink, people would ask me what was my favorite beer, and my answer would always be FREE. You lushes have my permission to use that now that I’ve put it into retirement. Cheers!). Back to the music now, I’m just not all that keen on dropping significant bucks to see a band that is way past its glory days ruin sweet memories of their previous greatness. I may be old, but not too old to rock ‘n roll, and I’m going to continue to go for the gusto and rock it with bands in their prime.
Ian Anderson is a super-talented composer and musician. However, this show was a disappointment. I think I’ll go back to the vinyl, the CDs and the Spotify and continue to listen to Jethro Tull the way they were. That’s a pretty good consolation prize.
Time to kick it up a notch, right? Oh yes, and don’t you know that the Kid did just that on Monday night? Oh hells yes, I did, and what a difference two days can make. Come back soon – and I mean soon – so that I can fill you in on not one but two solid acts that played to a sellout Philly crowd. Who are they? Here’s a picture:
If you guess right and let me know (no cheating) I’ll send you a BRP t-shirt. I have two left, and they are truly collector’s items. And with that, I’m out of here. Love ya, you rock ‘n rollers!
My name is Bill, and I live in the greater Philadelphia area. I love music, and I have a lot of opinions. This site is primarily focused on music, but sometimes I get off track. I hope you enjoy.