Review Summary: If you ever needed proof that progressive rock bands can put on a good show, look no further.
It was almost a year ago today that I, for the first time, saw Ian Anderson perform live, and, to be perfectly frank, while I was definitely excited, I didn’t know what to expect as I entered the Opera House where he was to play. One must understand that the minstrel’s work hasn’t been, for the past thirty years, what can be called consistent, and his voice, marred by surgery and time, was by no means as strong as in the days of old. I sat down in my seat nervous, and walked out, an hour or so later, absolutely ecstatic: the performance was as charismatic, enthralling, and, dare I say it, flawless as one could possibly hope. Quite naturally, I soon began to wonder: if Jethro Tull could put on a hell of a good show now, when they were by no means in their prime, what would a concert of theirs at the peak of their abilities sound like? The answer, as shown in Bursting Out
, is absolutely phenomenal.
was recorded, as implied above, when Jethro Tull was at it’s best, just after the release of Heavy Horses
. The band had a strong, diverse catalogue which contained very few real missteps, and, at this point, consisted entirely of world-class musicians helmed, of course, by Anderson himself, whose voice and flute playing abilities were then at their peak. Needless to say, the performance here is exceptional. Every song sounds significantly better than on album, especially the adrenaline-filled, sped-up Locomotive Breath and Aqualung, whose acoustic section and solo are almost doubled in length.
While much of Jethro Tull’s discography can arguably be viewed as an Ian Anderson solo project, with some backing performers providing a thoroughly non-essential accompaniment, this couldn’t be farther from the truth with Bursting Out
. Every one of the musicians is given their chance to shine, and shine they do: Barre’s solos are much more aggressive and dirty than they every were on record, with him eagerly spitting out bluesy licks whenever the opportunity arrises, and Evan’s keyboards, while normally subtle touches, occasionally show of his virtuosity (a prime example of this is Locomotive Breath’s intro solo). However, Bursting Out
’s biggest surprise comes in the form of Barriemore Barlow. Though his drumming always was theatrical and complex, it reaches a new height here: not only does he provide a firm rhythm, but the drum set positively explodes with him in command (this is best seen in Conundrum's drum solo). However, Barlow always knows when to restrain himself and put a momentary pause to his flashy battery, and his drumming never comes across as being overly technical.
What’s perhaps even better than the performance is the setlist, as nearly every single essential Jethro Tull tune is crammed into the one-and-a-half hour-long runtime. All phases of the band’s existence thus far are equally represented, and so the album is an eclectic mix of blues, folk, and progressive rock, thus creating a large amount of variety in the album. That said, most of the songs are changed in some way or other: almost an entire half-hour is trimmed from Thick As A Brick, the overly-long No Lullaby is cut in half, subtle strings backings are added to Aqualung, and so forth. All of these changes only ameliorate the already-strong songs, making them even more enjoyable.
Jethro Tull was never, and will never be, a band without it’s flaws. Too often did they meander, too often was the performance not up to par, and far too often, the music was simply boring. And yet, not a single of these flaws is present in Bursting Out
, which I can safely assert is the band’s best work to this very day.
Thick As A Brick
Minstrel In The Gallery