OK, I'll admit it. I was a kid when a buddy of mine came running over to me and enthusiastically proclaimed, "Jethro Tull is coming to do a concert next month!" "Who's he?" I asked, to my friend's incredulous look, belying my ignorance that the proper verb should have been "are" and the pronoun should have been "they". I was soon brought up to speed on Tull's amazing group dynamic of the then revolutionary combination of rock, classical, jazz and folk musics (frequently with a Celtic edge), anchored by group leader Ian Anderson's incredible flute, vocals, and, in live performances, acrobatic agility. Anderson, whose stage persona is part jester, part magician, and just slightly that of an inspired madman, was an arena rock pioneer who managed to nonetheless bring a surprisingly intimate feel to his shows performed before thousands. This compilation of German performances from 1970 to 1993 shows Anderson and group in fine form, covering some of Tull's best known pieces in some great sounding live versions.
There actually was a real Jethro Tull--a late 17th to mid-18th century English agriculturist who invented the seed drill. The group Tull was founded by Anderson in 1967, but had to wait until 1969's album "Stand Up" for their first mainstream success, highlighted by Anderson's cool jazzy reworking of Bach's Bourree, a classical-jazz-rock mélange that pointed the way for such future supergroups as Yes, not to mention the use of Bach again during the nascent disco era for such singles as Apollo 100's "Joy" (based on Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring).
The DVD finds Tull in fine form on such stalwarts as "Aqualung," "Thick as a Brick," "Locomotive Breath" and "Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll, Too Young to Die," as well as great lesser known tunes (and one of my personal favorites) like "Jack in the Green." Anderson deserves props for letting his band stretch out here, especially the fiery keyboard solo with some positively Wakeman-esque work by Peter-John Vettese. The DVD skips around in time, starting in the 1980s, proceeding to the 1993 concert, and then taking the wayback machine to 1970, so it's fun in a tangential way to see Anderson's hair growing and departing through various eras, as well as to see the different instrumentation involved through the years (guitarist Martin Barre is a regular, though earlier incarnations feature a Hammond B3 as opposed to acoustic and electric keyboards).
Tull is such a distinctive force in popular music that their contribution is virtually impossible to classify. I, for one, happen to think that's a very good thing. With Anderson's mellifluous, though at times rock-raspy, voice proclaiming lyrics that frequently have a mythological underpinning, and with the florid instrumental backings that Tull always provides, this DVD offers a career-spanning look at one of the most unique bands to make Top 40 headway over the past 40-odd years.