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Ian Anderson - Thick As A Brick Live In Iceland CD (album) cover


Ian Anderson


Prog Folk

3.29 | 24 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
2 stars By now an old pro like Ian Anderson can probably perform the whole of his (second) most famous album (after "Aqualung", arguably) in his sleep. Which is precisely what happened in Reykjavik in June of 2012, where the former Jethro Tull figurehead and his new band presented the unabridged "Thick as a Brick", Parts One and Two together in mismatched tandem (with intermission).

It's hard not to think of the album as an attempt by Anderson to legitimize an inferior sequel by hitching it in concert alongside the classic 1972 original. But playing them back-to-back only reinforces the shortcomings of the latter Brick, while undermining the legacy of the former. Instead of a dynamic update of a timeless Progressive Rock masterpiece, Anderson offers only an awkward karaoke rendering, with supporting music literally phoned in (via Skype) from North London, and with extensive pre-recorded overdubs killing any sense of a genuine live performance.

Worse yet, he seems to regard the use of taped music (including the famous opening flute motif, impossible to play if you're also singing) as an acceptable part of the concert experience. "Thick as a Brick: Semi-Live in Iceland" would have been a more honest title, but he wasn't going to sell too many albums that way.

And, after being lured into hearing the much-thinner Second Brick by the dangled carrot of its more esteemed forefather on the same set-list, older fans might find themselves missing not only Jethro Tull, but all-too often Anderson himself. The new arrangements of the older music were adapted to ease the obvious strain on his aging vocal chords, with a sound-alike ringer (Ryan O'Donnell, credited with "additional vocals, dance, and mime") brought in to hit the higher notes. I applaud Anderson's willing spirit to mount a show when his flesh is no longer cooperating. But it's sad to hear a once-vigorous performer reduced to playing occasional flute in his own cover band, and hoarsely speaking his lyrics instead of singing them.

In his seventh decade Anderson clearly isn't ready to admit he's finally Too Old to Rock 'n' Roll. But poking fun at his own infirmities only calls attention to them, and needlessly fractures the otherwise seamless original Brick with silly vaudeville interruptions: a mock weather report; a psychiatric appointment for the album's fictional author, Gerald Bostock; a pre-rehearsed (or pre- recorded) telephone call to cue the Skype relay with violinist Anna Phoebe. And, at the nadir of the evening's entertainment: an onstage prostate examination for a lucky volunteer from the audience (I'd much rather hear a drum solo, thank you very much...)

Brick II on the second CD actually works a little better, maybe because the music itself is ideally suited to the hired skills of Anderson's B-team Tull backing band. But it's still a 56-minute anticlimax, and always will be when juxtaposed like this against the 1972 opus.

Quoting the man himself: Really don't mind if I sit this one out...

Neu!mann | 2/5 |


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