On June 3rd, 1995 I went to see Ian Anderson at Massey Hall in Toronto. It was a pretty unique setting for the Jethro Tull frontman; rather than leading one of the many lineups of his ever-morphing legendary rock band the singer/songwriter/flautist/everythingist was fronting a New Age ensemble in support of his recent album Divinities.
It made sense that I was a big fan of this new release when it came out. It’s a series of quasi-Classical compositions based on the gods of different world religions arranged with lots of synths and mellow, modern timbres. It played well into my BA in world religions and I was a big, big fan of Jethro Tull (which is for all intents and purposes Ian Anderson’s nom de plume). Plus I had a taste for the whole neo-Classical rock vibe via guys like Kitaro and Mike Oldfield.
And while my adoration for Ian Anderson vanished abruptly after an embarrassing Jethro Tull show that I had yet to attend at the Civic Centre, if my appreciation for his Divinities album ever waned I’m not at all surprised that it found its way firmly back onto my fave’s list.
Y’see, the first time I ever saw satellite radio was in my dad’s car. I was floored by all the amazing musical options and asked my (generally non-music listening) father what stations he leaned towards. It was with genuine embarrassment that he told me the only station he tuned in to for music was the Spa channel. “I really like elevator music,” he said, turning away.
And y’know, despite all my beliefs and predictions I’ve found that I’ve adopted a shocking amount of my father’s traits, including his mysterious appreciation of elevator music. Believe it or don’t, when I get in my car to drive across town or across the country, my radio stays pretty much locked on the Spa channel. I listen to it really quietly too.
And wouldn’t you know it, Ian Anderson’s Divinities remains on regular rotation on the Spa channel, as does Kitaro and occasionally even some Mike Oldfield. What has become of the world (or is it just me)?
But back to the show in question, for the first set Anderson performed the new album start-to-finish, all instrumental, all beautifully chill, and all backed by a minimalist ensemble heavy on synthesizers and percussion rattles and decidedly short on the standard rock trappings such as electric guitars and thumping kick drums.
The second set was nothing but Jethro Tull songs, some familiar to me like Life Is A Long Song, Locomotive Breath, and of course Aqualung, and many that were not. Given the instrumentation on stage and the general feel of the show his arrangement of Bach’s Bourrée was obligatory and a gorgeous highlight of the show.
I should add that it was extra-special seeing this concert in such a…can I say elegant? venue. To have experienced this concert sitting on plastic folding chairs in a large, cold arena would have robbed the show of a lot of its class.
Massey Hall might not be the most comfortable venue in the world, but it does have class.