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A rather entertaining weekend was had that ended up with a wonderful performance by Ian Anderson formerly known as Jethro Tull at the Festival Theatre in Edinburgh. 🙂
We go back a long ways our first meeting being at the Theakston festival outside Wakefield on the 28th August 1982. It was Marillion’s first ever festival and we were first on stage on Saturday afternoon ( I opened with “good evening” just after midday! ) I walked out of the dressing room area to come face to face with non other than the singer from the headline act and having been a fan of “Tull”‘ since I was a teenager I was as taken aback as Ian was when confronted by a 6ft 5 Scotsman wearing full face make up. We eyed each other up slightly bemused at what to say or do. He’d chosen us to open the day after listening to our demo which we had sent to the festival which he was co promoting. I found out, as we reminisced on gigs gone by this weekend, that he’d chosen Marillion over Runrig .
We were treated really well and had a “rider” in the backstage for the first time. It disappeared in minutes. I’ve never seen musos demolish a fruit tray so fast and not seen the like since!
We played a great short set despite heart stopping technical problems that our crew eventually dealt with as they were too busy taking instamatic photos of the audience. It was the biggest stage we’d been on and at 2000 scattered across the field the biggest crowd we’d played to at that time. We were a bit overawed at first but delivered the goods. I missed Jethro Tull that night as we were playing Liverpool and about to be told that EMI wanted to sign us!
This was to be one of the first of many meetings with Ian over the years and it holds a lesson for all musos out there!
Next time we met up was at Milton Keynes in June 86 when Marillion were headlining. That was when the photo below was taken backstage when we both had a relatively fine head of hair although my receding hairline was disguised in a bandana Mark Knopfler style! 🙂
We made sure we returned the hospitality and respect Tull had shown us years before not knowing that within a few years I’d be back supporting them as a solo artist on open airs in Germany.
It was only a few years ago that once again the bill changed round and Tull supported me at the Loreley “Night of Prog” and again a year later we were on the same bill in Calw me supporting them!
Although we’d met backstage on numerous occasions we had never had a “proper” sit down and natter.
I’d got to know Ian’s son James over the years and we have become good friends meeting up in London watering holes when I’m down there. James is now Ian’s tour manager and when he called to say he was in Edinburgh this weekend and had a day off before the show it was a great chance to catch up.
I headed into the city at half time during the FA cup final slightly stunned at the Arse being 2-1 down but confident it could be turned around. The hotel bar at Jury’s seemed to be mainly populated with Arsenal fans amongst which were Ian, James some crew guys and Tom Lynch one of the Marillo’s old merch stalwarts and solid Gunner. Beers were had and the game unfolded between conversations and tales from the Story Box! The goals went in the bar roared and big happy smiles were to be had as Arsene and the boys picked up the trophy for the first time in years! At least I had some comfort for my otherwise woeful footy season as a supporter!
Post match the obligatory curry was suggested and Ian, James, Tom and I headed up the road to Mother India and a mouthwatering array of tapas curry dishes!
A grand and scintillating conversation was to be had and I welcomed the chance to get to know Ian better outside “work”!
Tom and I ping ponged old stories back and forward from my Marillo days and we all took stock of the music business.
Ian is a fascinating gentleman, worldly wise and humble despite a history that any muso would be proud to have on his Wikipedia page. Very funny and highly intelligent he was brilliant company as were James and Tom. It was the best night I’d had in a long while.
We said farewell to Ian outside his hotel as tomorrow was gig day but the remaining trio sallied into The Hebrides bar for close of evening pints. I got home about 2am and was surprisingly clear minded despite it being a decent session and my first drink for a week! :-0
Sunday afternoon was intermittent work on the PC in bright sunshine and another listen to Ian’s new album ” Homo Erraticus” which I’ve got more and more into since James gave me a copy the last time I was in London.
I went in with my mate Rab and met up with Tara, her friend and James and Tom for a pint in the Brass Monkey a gem of a pub that I’d never been in before but one I’ll be returning to more regularly when I’m in the neighbourhood. See for yourself
Ian was on stage at 7.30 and as James had got us brilliant seats in the centre of the stalls we couldn’t be late without being noticed.
The Festival Theatre is a wonderful venue and one I’d like to play some day. A great array of balconies including a grand circle all withing “touching” distance of a full size stage. It’s been redone in recent years and used to be a famous venue where I remember Floyd and Deep Purple playing when I was young although I never went into it until it was refurbished ,after years of being derelict, with an impressive glass frontage onto the street.
It was a perfect stage for Ian’s show which opened with a first half that took in an entire performance of his new album.
It was a brave move but he pulled it off with panache, a back screen projection on a full cinema screen an intrinsic part of the show with stage movements finely synced to the bespoke visuals that really added to the understanding of the lyric content of an album I think quite a few people in the audience didn’t quite know. The use of the excellent musicians in role playing with costume changes and a talented young singer and actor, Ryan O’ Donnell who seemed to take on the role of court jester as well as backing vocalist with a free rein on stage added to the theatricality of it all. The sound was spot on and the stage lighting complimented the projections to create an engaging experience.
The second half was a “greatest hits “set with a clock on the projection screen counting back the years to reveal some black and white footage of these numbers from gigs gone by. Watching Ian one legged and pointy toed front of stage synced into his historical performance as a 22 year old all mad hair and mad eyes on the giant screen behind was somewhat surreal.
There were as expected a lot of comic moments and song introductions mixed in with great playing from all concerned. I mentioned to Ian after the show that his flute playing really stood out and he was obviously loving it. I think it was helped by great on stage sound that allowed all the instruments to be heard and there was nothing fighting over the volume including the voices that were clear and never strained.
Songs from Aqualung, Passion Play and Songs from the Wood were rolled out including Too Old To Rock and Roll which in the circumstances was somewhat tongue in cheek considering I was watching a man 10 years older than me going through the paces with apparent ease! It all drew to a close with Locomotive Breath and a strong crowd delivered a standing ovation. One of the best all round shows I had seen for quite a while.
Backstage after show he was in jovial mood but obviously knackered. Most impressive thing of the night was discovering he remembered all the lyrics by heart with no stage prompts! I felt slightly guilty as his tomes are as equally lengthy pieces as my scribblings! Must try harder stuck in my mind! 🙂
And so we made our farewells and left him to meet up with other back stage denizens while we retired to the Brass Monkey again to have a few beers and rums with the band and crew before they got in the bus for the show in Perth tonight.
It’s not going to be long until we meet again as we are on the same bill in Poland in July!
As I said musos learn from this. Always treat people with respect and as you too would expect to be treated yourself as you never know when circumstances change, and they always change, and you might need that favour or recommendation that is the difference between playing a show or not.
I got back in the taxi around 1am inspired and happy but aware I should have been finishing my own tour this weekend. I am desperate to get back on a stage again after this unscheduled break. Rehearsals for us start again next Monday and I know the boys will be glad to put everything behind us and get back to work.
Another week of bits and pieces is in front of me. I just have to thread them all together and make sense of the brand new cunning plan! It’s coming together nicely! 🙂