How old must I be if my favorite album is 40?
My husband bought me tickets to the Jethro Tull concert in Minneapolis last weekend. Lest you think this was one of those “I’ll buy her tickets and then I’ll get to go” kind of gifts, I should tell you that he really does not like this band. Although we grew up in the same era, when we met in college he was into Billy Joel and I was into Pink Floyd. And Led Zeppelin…and Jethro Tull.
The band toured a few years ago and actually performed in Des Moines, but I didn’t go. I didn’t want to see this band — whom I’d loved so much when I was 17 and whom I’d seen twice in concert in Kansas City – limping along, a shadow of its former self (at the way-too-civilized Civic Center). I preferred to remember the rollicking, long-haired showmen I’d seen from the field of Arrowhead Stadium with thousands of dope-smoking teenagers.
Well, then I read the review of that concert and it turned out the band was still the real thing. I was sorry I missed it. So when the 40th (FORTIETH!!) Anniversary Tour of the groundbreaking album “Aqualung” brought the lads to the Twin Cities, well, that was close enough for a road trip to the past.
I think you have to be of a certain mindset to enjoy a band whose songs tell the stories of leering old men, uniformed schoolgirls, and the rejection of your parents’ religion. At least, those are my favorite ones. It would not be an exaggeration to say that the “Aqualung” album opened my 12-year-old eyes and dragged me headlong into puberty and a lifetime of questioning the “establishment.” Maybe that’s why I’m so fond of it.
Many of the concert-goers Saturday night were probably going through the same thing I was in 1971 when “Aqualung” was released. Some of the people in the audience weren’t even born yet when the album came out – not by a long shot. “Aqualung” wasn’t Jethro Tull’s first album or its last, but it was certainly its best.
One good thing about attending a performance by a group of men well into their 60s is that they value starting and ending at a decent hour. I’m sure, like me, their days of reveling into the wee hours of the morning are over. Our tickets said 8 p.m. and, by crackie, Ian Anderson walked onto center stage at 8:05. No fanfare, no opening act. And, they took a 15-minute break halfway through the show, presumably to pee.
If you’re a Jethro Tull fanatic I suppose you would have already known that frontman Anderson’s voice gave out years ago. I did not know this and, honestly, I don’t really care. It’s true that during the concert Saturday night he struggled to hit the notes of songs he’s obviously sung a million times. But I figure if I want to hear “Cross-Eyed Mary” sung perfectly, I can pop in the CD and crank up the stereo in my living room. On Saturday night, Anderson’s wrecked voice was that of an old rock star who’s lived a rock star’s existence. But guess what? He can still play a mean flute. Maybe better than ever. The band played all of my favorites from “Aqualung” – and some from their lesser works – and finished the second set with a rousing rendition of the title track. As we all stood and screamed for more, I turned to Dave and shouted, “I’m not leaving until I hear ‘Locomotive Breath!’” – the band’s greatest anthem of all time.
And then…the group returned to the stage and played “Locomotive Breath.”
It was a perfect night.