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Music DVD Review: Jethro Tull – Jack in the Green: Live in Germany

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Watch the Bach-inspired flutist of rock 'n' roll's beard turn gray. Jethro Tull's latest DVD, Jack in the Green: Live in Germany, is a varied collection of good, and good enough performances spanning 22 years. Laying it down on the mandolin, harmonica, or Tull's trademark flute is frontman Ian Anderson as he leads the English rock band of 40 years to success across Germany.

Anderson has personally approved every clip in this DVD, which features performances ranging in style from rock to blues and folk. A Tull concert is a simple one, absent of smoke, lightshows, and the like. The showmanship is less than spectacular, yet quite more than lackluster. Since 1970, Tull has enjoyed "a wonderful relationship with Germany and our German fans," according to Anderson. That country, of course, is where each show in the DVD took place.

Nine of the DVD's 18 songs are from Rockpop in Concert, held in 1982.  Groomed in the manner of a hobo, Anderson performed rather enthusiastically as the band was on top of their game.  I found it lame when Anderson played air guitar on his flute alongside guitarist Martin Barre. On the other hand, performing as a conductor with his back to the audience was a sharp if not brilliant touch.

Mania swept the vast audience when the opening notes of "Aqualung" were struck and Tull had them by the balls with "Locomotive Breath," which directly followed. These songs, arguably the best in Tull's repertoire, were dazzlingly played and form the climax of this concert, a performance which many viewers — although not myself — would consider the highlight of this DVD.

Ironically, Tull reveals a glaring flaw in their live work by striving to impress, shown throughout the DVD.  Barre and company are on a screaming rampage with their respective instruments, unencumbered by vocals as they let loose and lay it down. And yet I don't care.  Lynyrd Skynyrd they certainly ain't.  Tull's instrumental free-for-alls are repetitive, bland and lacking in creativity.  They probably thought they were really smokin', but my mind just languished as I hoped an end was near. 

It's 1993, Anderson looks like a geezer, and they're dressed like morons; this is my favorite part.  Anderson shows brilliance in versitility as the Briton metamorphoses into a folksy blues singer. The masterfully written "My Sunday Feeling" showcases some fine flute work and vocals. "So Much Trouble" was no less impressive, as Anderson soulfully sang and whaled on the harmonica. In this performance, his showmanship was subdued centering on high kicks and still more faux guitar playing with his ever-present flute. Coal miner costumes notwithstanding, this was a pleasure to watch.

Two songs on the DVD date back to 1970-71 at the Beat Club.  These are slow, meditative ones with great emphasis on the piano and flute. Variety is the spice of this video. The remaining five songs date to 1986, mostly from their Out in the Green performance. Nothing remarkable here with regard to the songs or the presentation. This is similar to the Rockpop concert, although not as good and with somewhat more of those instrumental meanderings I mentioned.

Although I didn't enjoy it thoroughly, this is a fairly good DVD that Tull connoisseurs will appreciate.  Jack in the Green: Live in Germany is set to be released on May 20 at a retail sales price of $14.98.

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