Eugene Weekly : Music : 9.27.07

Dude With a Flute
Jethro Tull after all these years

Jethro Tull. 8 pm Tuesday, Oct. 2. Hult Center. $35 adv., $45 door.

There are three things I know about Jethro Tull: The band has a famous song called “Aqualung;” Mr. Tull — I mean, Ian Anderson — plays the flute; they won the 1989 Grammy Award for Best Hard Rock/Metal Performance, beating Metallica, favored at the time for … And Justice For All. I had been a huge Metallica fan up to that point, even though Justice was a little disappointing, and that, uh, injustice pissed me right off. In my opinion, the flute prevented Jethro Tull from being even hard rock, much less heavy metal. I’m not sure I have ever truly forgiven them for winning in a category I felt they had no business being included in. Jethro Tull was music my dad listened to, for Christ’s sake. And anything my dad listened to was as bad as Muzak to my ears. There was nothing less cool to my headbanging, black-clad 16-year-old self than my chubby, balding dad blasting Boston and Jethro Tull. He would wax nostalgic about how great Aqualung was. I couldn’t care less. A jazzy, folky, flute-focused album? That came out the year I was born? Whatever.

But, looking back at my youthful mistrust of the previous generation’s music with the benefit of 17 years of hindsight, I realize that there is a lot more to Jethro Tull than I originally thought. I have to give Ian Anderson props for placing the flute at the forefront of a non-orchestral band. That’s not easy to do. (See, I still can’t call them “rock!”) And still playing shows and releasing new material after five decades in the music business deserves my respect.

If you listen to classic rock stations, you get a rather skewed picture of Jethro Tull. There’s “Locomotive Breath,” “Aqualung,” “Bungle in the Jungle,” “Skating Away” and not much else. Those songs don’t even begin to convey the breadth of ground covered by Anderson and company, with the flute trilling away in the middle of it all. I appreciate now how challenging some of Anderson’s lyrics were to the concepts of organized religion and social identity. And he’s a dang good flute player.

In August, Jethro Tull released Live At Montreux 2003, a DVD and video of a 2003 performance at the legendary Montreux Jazz Festival. The band’s Hult Center show is in the middle of a five-month world tour, with shows split into two sets, one acoustic and one electric.