Ian Anderson: Live in Kansas City

Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson Presents Thick as a Brick 1 & 2
Muriel Kauffman Theatre, Kansas City, Mo
July 13, 2013

By Gary Shindler Jr.

Set list:
Thick As A Brick Part 1 | Prostate Cancer Public Service Announcement | Thick As a Brick Part 2 Intermission

Thick As A Brick 2: Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock? |
Locomotive Breath

Ian Anderson has been amusing and entertaining rock audiences since the late 60s with Jethro Tull’s unique blend of classical, folk, jazz and hard rock influences. Last year marked the 40th anniversary of Tull’s “Thick as a Brick” – the band’s first number one charting album in the U.S. – Anderson’s clever response to the abundance of progressive rock concept albums of the early 70s. “TAAB” was an “award-winning” epic poem constructed by St. Cleve’s 8-year-old wunderkind spread out over both A and B sides of the album with no individual track listings and little hope for a top 40 charting single. After repeated badgering from his peers Anderson was coerced into revisiting “the mother of all concept albums” and Gerald Bostock’s fate(s). Since the original “TAAB” had never been performed entirely onstage and the fact that Anderson had such an enjoyable time writing and recording the aptly titled “Thick as a Brick 2” he decided to celebrate both albums on tour at some of the world’s finest musical venues.

Kansas City’s Muriel Kauffman Theatre provided a sold out crowd of Tull fans – mostly older with a smattering of young adults – with a lavish and somewhat restrained – evening of music. Perhaps due to the theatre’s newness patrons were prohibited from bringing drinks into the concert hall and no photography or filming was allowed.

Before the show began a road crew appeared on stage in trench coats and hats tidying up the stage, noticeably placing a flute near the mike stand at center stage.  A Beatle-wigged Anderson appeared via St. Cleve’s YouTube site on a screen above the stage offering a prologue to the fans and then Anderson in the present tense appeared onstage playing the iconic “Really don’t mind “introduction with a microscopic acoustic guitar. Then the roadies seen before were revealed as his actual band as they jumped into the challenging tempo and key changes epitomized by “TAAB.”

Each member of Anderson’s troupe met the challenge of backing him through the complex movements of the two albums showcased. Singer, mime and tomfoolery provider Ryan O’Donnell had a lot more to do during the first half of the show trading vocal lines with Anderson and personifying young Bostock. Having O’Donnell sing let Anderson focus more on his flute playing and the evening bore the reality that Anderson’s voice is not necessarily up to the challenge of performing both roles of vocalist and musician. Anderson’s humble choice of sharing his role onstage helped put the focus on the music itself even though for a man in his 60s Anderson puts a lot of energy into his performance playing, singing and moving around the stage constantly.

Keyboardist and music director John O’Hara was possibly the hardest working member of Anderson’s troupe: In his demented looking Dr. Strangelove meets Captain Caveman hair and suit jacket with tails and dangling suspenders he played a wide selection of keyboards and accordion. His barrelhouse piano introduction for the show-stopping encore of “Locomotive Breath” was one of the highlights of the evening.

The white haired and dapperly dressed bass player David Goodier provided a solid foundation with drummer Scott Hammond. Both had featured solos: Goodier thumped a Jaco Pastorius-esque riff on his Fender bass Hammond banged a lengthy solo and showed no discomfort while performing in an outfit matching the rest of the band’s snappy attire.

Guitarist Florian Opahle handled the lead guitar role commendably in the absence of Tull’s longest standing member Martin Barre. To some veteran Tull fans seeing the long-blond hair flowing from his hat and the trademark Gibson Les Paul might have reminded them of Anderson’s accomplice. Opahle proved to be a worthy guitarist whether soloing or accompanying the band.

One amusing moment of the evening Anderson answered his cel phone resulting in an invitation for violinist Ana Phoebe to Skype her accompaniment while at the same time she tended to her toddler. Later in the show Anderson featured musicians that died from prostate cancer and pulled a random audience member (actually one of the merchandise sellers) out of the audience and a doctor (hopefully a real one) to get an examination offstage and the audience had a tease of the procedure shown on the video screen before the show jumped back to its stopping point.

Anderson used images above the stage depicting the Vietnam War, covers from the British action series featuring James “Biggles” Bigglesworth and most noticeably a filmed narrative featuring a scuba diver wandering the countryside first finding a puddle and eventually the sea and possibly home(?). The visuals added narrative levity to what was already a compelling concert. 

The only criticism that could be made for the show is that “TAAB2” does not stand up as a timeless classic compared to its predecessor. Some audience members either left the show or took an extended intermission after hearing “TAAB.” The fact that the most applause for the evening was during the encore song “Locomotive Breath” could prove that the audience would have enjoyed hearing more Tull classics like “Aqualung” or “Living in the Past” instead of “TAAB2” in its entirety.   

Still Anderson was a captivating performer who played the flute (still perched iconically on that one leg) and guitar and sang with a lot of gusto for a 65-year-old. The audience laughed as the group savored the applause of two curtain calls as Anderson’s eyes bulged in a cartoon-like fashion. Rumored to be recording an album this year it’s recommended to see Ian Anderson perform the next time he’s in your area.