Friday, 20 April 2012

TAAB2 @ Sheffield City Hall

I spent last night in the company of a number of (mainly) gentlemen of a certain age to enjoy one of the few public performances in its entirety (certainly since its release in 1972) of the classic Jethro Tull album 'Thick as a Brick', followed after a short interval by a full rendition of Ian Anderson's sequel, the inventively-titled 'Thick as a Brick 2'.

The show began with the stage slowly filling with men in light brown overalls and flat caps, sweeping the stage and bringing the last of the equipment and instruments on, accompanied by video footage of some kind of warehouse. This faded to a scene in a psychiatrist's surgery waiting room, where an unseen Gerald Bostock was ushered in to a consultation with his 'shrink' (Ian Anderson). After a brief conversation, cue Anderson on stage with solo acoustic guitar, and the opening bars of TAAB.

The band accompanying Anderson - Scott Hammond on drums, Dave Goodier on bass, John O'Hara on keyboards & Florian Opahle on guitars - performed the music with great skill and panache, and Anderson himself switched from guitar to flute with flair and dexterity. My only disappointment with the performance, certainly during the first half of the show, was with Ian's vocals, where he really struggled at times to reach some of the higher notes - a problem I don't remember him having when I saw him during Tull's 40th anniversary tour in 2008. He was helped, though, by the inclusion of young actor/ singer Ryan O'Donnell, who took many of the vocal parts during the first half of the show, and did a more than passable impersonation of a younger Anderson in places.

Mid-way through TAAB, Anderson made a joke about the fact that some in the audience couldn't make it through to the interval without having to 'leave the room', and invited one such gentleman onto the stage for a cursory (off-screen) prostate check - making the point that 'men of a certain age' need to look after themselves in this area.

After the interval came the rendition of TAAB2, a story that charts the life of disgraced poetry prodigy Gerald Bostock over the last 40 years. The story was illustrated again with images on the screen: the more poignant being images of repatriated British soldiers during 'Wooton Basset Town'; the more bizzare being a recurring image of a frogman walking the streets in search of water (complete with Aqualung). The inclusion of the images and of O'Donnell's performance made this more of a show than a performance, and it proved to be a very entertaining evening. Although I was left maybe wanting a little more, there was no encore, and perhaps that was right. We were left having enjoyed the story of Gerald Bostock, 40 years in the telling.