(Chrysalis/EMI; 93 mins.)
BY LEE ZIMMERMAN
Given their unlikely and unimpeded juxtaposition of Prog,
Rock. Blues, Folk and outright indulgence, Jethro Tull would seem the ‘60s band
most likely to suffer from musical obsolesce and the possibility that they
would outlive their fan following. Yet, with a plethora of reissues, re-dos and
revisits to former glories, the Tull brand apparently remains as durable as
ever, that summoning riff of “Aqualung” forever entrenched as one of Rock’s
most essential calls to arms. The Grammy
debacle and the derision of their detractors aside, Ian Anderson’s indomitable
monolith still manages to garner its fair share of respectability.
That reputation is further bolstered by the archival
material that regularly flows from the vaults, and once again, Live at Madison Square
Garden 1978 finds
Tull at the peak of their form, albeit a full decade after their initial incarnation. Boasting the majority of their iconic line-up
– Anderson, guitarist Martin Barre, drummer Barriemore Barlow and keyboard
players John Evan and David Palmer, augmented here by bassist Tony Williams,
the band is as bombastic as ever yet still completely nuanced. The CD portion of this double disc set offers
evidence enough of their dexterity – the lithe “Thick As A Brick” and supple
“Songs From The Wood” demonstrate their mastery of altering the tone and dynamic
– but the DVD, which repeats all the same songs, clearly spotlights the
showmanship that was so integral to their presentation. Oddly enough, the video of the performance
doesn’t shift to live action until track number four and then dissolves for the
final three selections, a result of time constraints in the original satellite
broadcast. At the time it might have
made for awkward staging, but here, glimpsed in retrospect, there’s no evidence
of any fumbling or lull in the proceedings.
As for the material, the crowd-pleasers are here, of course
– “Cross-Eyed Mary,” “Locomotive Breath and “Aqualung,” chief among them — but
the earlier tracks from the Tull canon are notably absent. Rather, the band emphasizes their more
pastoral turn at the time, evidenced by songs like “One Brown Mouse” and “Songs
From Wood,” tunes that showed Anderson
drawing on traditional roots.
Regardless, as the latest in a series of seemingly endless encores, the
set finds a tireless Tull triumphing yet again.
Features: Bonus 11-song audio disc.