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Jethro Tull: Live

2007-11-27 15:54
Grand West Casino, conveniently located near to some of Cape Town's poorest neighbourhoods, is nothing like that. It's a clanging, jangling, cheap money-grabbing nightmare full of fat men in pullovers, grumpy couples, and retired housewives in spiky dye-jobs. There's even the odd old lady in a wheelchair. The massive security team are better equipped to deal with wrestling fans and guns than with cameras and guitars. And the later it gets, the sadder the faces become. Give me a good old-fashioned crack den any day. At least in a crack den, you get what you paid for. Maybe a blowjob too.

So the venue, yes, it sucks. But as you walk on through to the other side and reach the Arena - the place where the music is happening - the tackiness ebbs.

And the sound was actually a lot better than what I heard in 90-something, in the Durban "Village Green", when an unwell Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson struggled valiantly through a set for a half empty tent. And isn't the sound what really matters? Basic though the Grand West lighting was, and far-back though some seats were, and as much as big screens left a black hole the further back you got, The Arena wrestled with the job and got it done.
At the Arena in Cape Town, Ian Anderson played the gig like a stadium pub star, even throwing in easily understood quips for the audience (in one of which he claimed not to know what twelve-eight timing is), bonding with the crowd and getting the laughs they needed between numbers. That is, until the crowd annoyed him by enjoying it too much and whistling and he exited his otherwise pro set in a sulk.

Anyone who bought a ticket only for the chance to see Anderson die of a heart attack mid-flamingo would have been disappointed. He may be 60, but he's still got those magic runs, he's still got that percussive attack and the deep, variable tone, and he can still do scary-eyes. And there are new songs, too. He's still the best bandana-wearing rock flautist I know.

A singer? He's always had a special tone, but he swallows its resonance. And more and more, even on the prog-rock classic "Aqualung", his aqualung is letting him down.

Still the audience seemed quite happy most of the time. Thrilled to be seated, clapping along to the hits they recognised (and whistling). Jolly good show, old chap! Encore!

- Jean Barker
It's easy to imagine Jethro Tull playing a casino. But in my fantasy it's an old-fashioned casino, with smartly dressed men around tables hiding their cards, with smoky roulette wheels spinning and ladies leaning over, big-breasted, fag in hand.

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