Jethro Tull's Anderson "Thick As A Brick" and dapper

Thu May 3, 2012 7:55am EDT
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By Jeremy Gaunt

LONDON (Reuters) - A chat with Ian Anderson - flautist, multi-instrumentalist, founder and wild face of British rock group Jethro Tull - does not go quite as expected.

Yes, there is discussion of his music, the 40th anniversary world tour of the progressive rock classic "Thick As A Brick", and of its 2012 follow up. But there is also a lot more about flutes in space, an unlikely link with the George W. Bush White House - and the importance of prostate examinations.

Anderson, now 64 and dapper rather than the frenzied druid-cum-warlock of yore, is quite clear and animated about the latter. Too many family and friends have died from prostate and colon cancer for him to ignore it.

So much so, in fact, that his current world tour - taking in most of Europe, Israel and more than two dozen stops across the United States -includes a full-fledged skit on the subject, a rallying cry for the audience to get checked plus a visual reminder of those felled by the condition, including cult musician Frank Zappa.

"It is a very serious message," Anderson told Reuters over a beer in railway station pub recently. "If I can get two (in the audience to get a check), I can save lives."

Not that any of this should be taken to suggest that Anderson's current "Thick As a Brick" concerts are overly serious or message-laden. On the contrary, they are a joyful celebration of all that was 1970s prog rock - over-the-top navel-gazing mixed with often sublime musicianship.

A lot of this was evident at a recent, packed concert at London's Hammersmith Apollo, where Anderson was backed by a tight band that included a remarkable sound-a-like singer to help him through the double-tracks of the original.

With impressive agility and age-defying lung power, Anderson cavorted across the stage, keeping the trilling and tutting on his flute going for a couple of hours and leaping from time to time into his trademark one-legged stance.   Continued...

File photo of Ian Anderson, flautist and vocalist of the classic rock band Jethro Tull, performing during a rock concert at Fort Manoel in Valletta's Marsamxett Harbour August 1, 2004. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi