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Published: 2014/09/26
by Nancy Dunham

Ian Anderson: Thick As a Brick Live in Iceland

Eagle Rock Entertainment

Just because Ian Anderson doesn’t want to go on a rock cruise with you doesn’t mean he won’t tell you about his life. But deciphering what’s what true and what’s fantasy in his musical messages, well, that’s up to you.

No one can accuse Jethro Tull’s front man and founder of not understanding how to engage his devotees. All you have to do is look at the steady stream of new music, videos, linear notes, taped interviews and more he regularly releases and the onslaught of fan board activity that follows.

The latest release Thick as a Brick: Live in Iceland – available in CD, DVD and Blu-Ray – is a perfect example of how Anderson keeps the fans happily engaged.

That’s saying something when you consider that Anderson and his cohorts have toured extensively behind the 1972 album Thick as a Brick and its 2012 follow up. Anderson was the visionary behind every aspect of the music, notes, and stage show that allows viewers to follow the fictional child prodigy Gerald Bostock for 40 years on separate journeys during which Anderson imagines his protagonist an investment banker, gay homeless man, a soldier, a preacher and a storekeeper. So what, you may ask, is Gerald Bostick’s ultimate fate? Come on, we can’t tell you that. You have to find out for yourself.

And you’ll want to, anyway. Even non-Anderson fans will be hard-pressed to fault the often funny, sometimes touching and ultimately dark journey that likely mirror some of Anderson’s life as well as those of its viewers.

That’s no accident, of course. You likely recall that Anderson wrote the original Thick as a Brick as something of a parody, a slap at critics who labeled the 1971 Aqualung album as a concept triumph (he swears that it is not a concept album).

When he wrote the follow up to the 1972 TAAB and imagined different fates for Gerald Bostock, the tale became something of an exploration of Anderson’s own life and the paths he might have taken.

“It was a purely intellectual proposition, suddenly coming up with what had befallen Gerald 40 years down the line,” Anderson told Relix just prior to the 2012 release of TAAB II. “In considering shifts in luck and intervention it caused me to look back at my own life and consider that things might have turned out completely differently….Some of the album is dark. It’s not all fun and laughter.”

That is obvious when you watch Anderson and his cohorts perform the music from the two albums. You can certainly understand that from the audio CD, but the DVD of the live show literally captures Bostock’s disillusionment as his youthful beliefs are refuted and he’s left in a psychic maelstrom. The live show is not a concert as much as a combination concert and musical theatre. And it’s grand.

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the perfectionist that is Anderson obviously invested countless hours and effort to ensure top-notch lighting, filming, still photography, sound quality and countless other details that combine to create such products. After meticulously planning, writing and recording TAAB II (not to mention writing and designing the accompanying St. Cleve Chronicle “newspaper” – plus every aspect of the stage show), it’d be unthinkable that he would turn what seems the final piece of the project over to others.

Which brings us to a point made by other critics who note that while the musicians that tour with Anderson are gifted, they are little more than sidemen to his grand vision.
That seems accurate and also puts his dismissal of rock cruises and other such events in perspective.

For Anderson, it’s always been about following his musical path.

(Side note: In 2001 Anderson did small pub tours with some of his earliest Tull band mates, including founding bassist Glenn Cornick, who died at age 67 on August 28, 2014. Our sympathies to his family, friends, and fans. You can hear some of the music from that tour on “Living with the Past.”).

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