Jethro Tull has been delighting audiences since 1968, and the group’s lead artist, Ian Anderson, says their latest show is simply about good music and good times. PHIL CREIGHTON finds out more
BACK in February 1968, a musical legend was born: prog rock group Jethro Tull performed their first gig at the famous Marquee Club in London’s Wardour Street. They’ve not stopped since. Well, until covid.
Ian Anderson is bringing the group to Reading’s Hexagon Theatre for a show on Saturday, September 18. It was originally planned for October last year, but lockdowns put paid to that.
Now it’s back on again and Ian says there is a “quiet sense of relief” that the show can finally go on.
He says, “All the immense amount of work we’ve gone through in 18 months, having to postpone yet again, perhaps for the second time, concerts that we’d already put a lot of work into in terms of all the planning – buying tickets and hotels, doing all the prep work – it is an enormous amount of work only to find, yet again, we’ve had to postpone yet again.
“It’s an ongoing scenario, it’s been very depressing, and I’m sure it’s the same for all those people who bought tickets.”
Such is the group’s popularity, Ian says that the group had nearly sold all tickets for the tour back in 2019. “That’s a long time to be sitting on tickets,” he says.
For the gig at The Hexagon, Ian has one big request to his audience: wear a mask.
“Equip yourself with a proper one, none of this flimsy blue surgical mask rubbish,” he says. “Throw it away, go online and but, for less than £1, some BFE masks, otherwise known as a 95, which will give you a much higher level of protection.
“At this point in the pandemic, I honestly think people who do continue to wear masks are actually thinking about protecting themselves primarily because they are well aware of the risks.
“It would break my heart if one of the audience was to become infected,” he continues. “It would also break my heart if it was one of the band or the crew. In that scenario, it would sink the tour. If one person gets sick, it’s over.”
Ian has ensured that all venues have covid protocols in place to help protect everyone.
“Audiences can feel reassured, but that doesn’t mean throw caution to the wind,” he adds.
Of course, the show isn’t about covid, but about good music, good times. Why does Ian think prog rock has endured?
For some, he says, the music is like a comfort blanket: “we hang on to the things we know we’ve enjoyed”.
“But,” he adds, “if it’s on Wikipedia, chances are it merits its inclusion in terms of being part of the world we live in, and you should probably know something about it.”
He describes himself as being “a musical kitchen chef who likes to toss in different ingredients and try things out, blend different flavours together. That’s the kind of eclectic approach I took to music.”
He also admits to preferring the term progressive rock rather than its shortened version.
Things have changed for the band since 1968. Gone are the small smoky clubs and in are the larger stages. Ian prefers them as it gives him extra space, while the audience has “a much more comfortable place to enjoy music”.
Naturally, The Hexagon is one venue that he enjoys playing at: “We’ve been to it many, many times”.
“I can recall many previous visits to many previous venues, and in some cases, I sort of stick my head in the backstage door. I know where my dressing room is, there is that sense partly of déjà vu and of reconnecting with a personal past as a performing musician.”
Ian is very forthright and plain speaking. When asked why people should come along and see the gig, he can see Old Father Time.
“I’m 74-years-old, and at the moment reasonably fit, but you know, sooner or later it won’t happen,” he says. “I can’t possible predict when that time is.
“The other reason would be for people who are not so familiar (with my music), it is a bit of a curiosity.
“It’s a bit of getting to know and meet potentially new friends. The idea that you’re either discovering something for the first time or rediscovering something, can be an enriching experience.
“In worst case scenarios, you’re going to ask me for your money back. I shall reach into my sporran and say, ‘You know what? I forgot to put my spare change in here today’.”
And with that, there’s a chuckle and Ian is off to carry on his meticulous preparations for a great night of music.
Jethro Tull: The Prog Years is at The Hexagon on Saturday, September 18 from 7.30pm. Tickets cost from £34.50. For more details or to book, log on to www.whatsonreading.com or call 0118 960 6060.