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Concert Reviews:
Ian Anderson gives "Thick as a Brick" contemporary life at the Fox

for Journal Register Newspapers

Posted: Sunday, November 4, 2012

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DETROIT -- Forty years later, Jethro Tull fans still may not know exactly how it feels to be "Thick As a Brick."

But that didn't keep nearly 5,000 of them on Saturday night, Nov. 3, at the Fox Threatre, from enjoying frontman Ian Anderson's celebration of his band's landmark 1972 concept album as well as this sequel, "Thick as a Brick 2."

The two pieces shined even outside of the confines of Tull, and Anderson, still nimble and energetic at age 65, was in vintage showman form, both in the flesh and playing characters in the videos that were interspersed with the songs. The singer/flutist/guitarist also had help this time -- most notably from singer Ryan O'Donnell, whose presence let Anderson preserve some of his own wind as well as providing a theatrical foil over the course of the two-and-a-half-hour (including 20-minute intermission) show.

The rest of Anderson's tight five-piece band -- who appeared in overcoats to clean and "set up" the stage before the show began -- was more than up to the intricate, precise rigors of the "Thick" ouvre, with Anderson, guitarist Florian Ophale and keyboaridst John O'Hara trading short solo parts during passages of the original "Thick" as well as songs such as "Adrift and Dumbfounded" and "A Change of Horses" from "Brick 2." And violinist Ana Phoebe, at home with a baby played her part of the first "Thick" via a pre-recorded Skype session.

A fully outfitted scuba diver wandering the English countryside in search of water as a recurring video motif, while an old school photo showing Anderson and a couple of other early Tull members as teenagers was a big hit with the boomer-dominated crowd when it was shown on the screen. There were other sly nods and winks to those paying attention, such as O'Donnell paging through a copy of Britain's Prog magazine featuring Anderson on the cover at one point, and then reading through the St. Cleve Chronicle from the first "Thick."

The evening had a degree of gravitas, too. "Brick 2," after all, is about central character Gerald Bostock's journey into a challenging adulthood. And while there was humor in a prostate check stage Anderson and company staged with merchandising director Tom Lynch at the halfway point of the first "Thick," Anderson's message about prostate health and maintenance was deadly serious.

There was a happy ending for all, though, as "Brick 2" wrapped with a resonant "What-ifs, Maybes and Might-Have Beens" and Anderson and company returned to tear through "Locomotive Breath" from the "Aqualung" album that preceded "Thick" in 1971. It was a nice nod to the fans for their indulgence, but the song's own take on the unstoppable ride of age put a thoughtfully thematic cap on a show that was both nostalgic and decidedly in the present.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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