I first saw Jethro Tull on the Aqualung Tour at Civic Center in Roanoke, Virginia, on April 18, 1971. I most recently saw Ian Anderson and company at MGM National Harbor when they visited to celebrate 50 years of the band.
A group of my high school friends gathered outside the Civic Center early before the show, dropped LSD, then walked in and took our seats. About 45 minutes later, things started to happen! With the stage setup and lights still up, the roadies walked off stage followed by some long-haired individuals in trench coats walking around. Suddenly, they threw off their coats, and it was Jethro Tull the band. They started to perform and the stage lights revealed the band’s costumes categorized as baroque and psychedelic with a medieval twist.
The charismatic frontman Ian Anderson, the lead singer-flutist, was leaping, gyrating, and strutting about the stage with his flute in a freakish sort of way. When not playing the instrument, Ian used his flute as a baton and phallus, which was a real mind trip that no one forgot.
Stream Aqualung by Jethro Tull on Spotify:
Fast forward to Nov. 18, 1979! Ray Coleman, editor of Melody Maker, the English pop music weekly, hired me to accompany him backstage at the Oakland Coliseum and photograph Ian Anderson for the cover of a new magazine, Now. Ian and Ray were old friends, so I listen in on the interview while I set up my strobelights then captured some rare moments.
When it was time to do some portraits for the magazine cover, I told him my story about seeing him perform on the Aqualung Tour in Roanoke while on a transcendental high. While smoking his pipe, he smiled and asked if I enjoyed my trip? Very much so, I said.
Fast forward to March 11 at The Theater at MGM National Harbor, and I’m at the 50th Anniversary for US fans since Jethro Tull first visited in early 1969. And I am there to shoot Ian Anderson once again.
Jethro Tull’s line up today includes Ian (flute, guitar, bouzouki, mandolin, harmonica, vocals), Florian Opahle (guitar), Scott Hammond (drums), John O’Hara (orchestral conductor, piano, keyboards, accordion), and David Goodier (bass).
Widely recognized as the man who introduced the flute to rock music, Ian remains the crowned exponent of the popular and rock genres of flute playing. So far, no pretender to the throne has stepped forward. Ian also plays ethnic flutes and whistles together with acoustic guitar and the mandolin family of instruments, providing the acoustic textures which has been an integral part of most of the Tull repertoire.
As a compelling frontman and composer, Ian continues to move about the stage, minus some of the leaps and bounds but always in motion, and he leads his group through its various musical incarnations. His 50th anniversary tour is a show not to be missed and experienced!
Jethro Tull Tour Dates:
July 5 – Indio, CA @ Fantasy Springs Resort Casino
July 6 – Irvine, CA @ Five Point Amphitheater
July 7 – San Diego, CA @ San Diego Civic Theatre
July 9 – Saratoga, CA @ The Mountain Winery
Sept. 11 – Medford, MA @ Chevalier Theatre
Sept. 14 – Queens, NY @ Forest Hills Stadium
Sept. 15 – Uncasville, CT @ Mohegan Sun Arena
For more information, visit the Jethro Tull website.
Here are some photos of Ian Anderson taken in 1979, originally for Melody Maker. Photos copyright and courtesy of Chester Simpson.
Here are some pictures of Jethro Tull performing at MGM National Harbor on March 11, 2019.