The popular 'Cross-Eyed Mary' from the Aqualung album ended it but the sound mix and arrangement failed to convey the power and melody of this catchy, 3-minute ditty. Anderson's unique voice and storytelling seemed lost in translation. And Thank God the ubiquitous drum solo came early and lasted only a few moments. A revered rock band with countless records can afford to dispense with something that, like puka shells, went out of style long before 1980.
Herein lies the dilemma of nostalgia — it can work for or against you. If you decide to embrace and design your entire tour around it, you better go all in. So while their second set included more familiar songs, a heavy rocker like 'Steel Monkey' was left out in favor of the more classical sounding 'Ring Out, Solstice Bells'. I get that Tull helped invent the prog rock genre but rock is still a big part of it. Guess I can forgive Anderson for omitting the cheesy 'Bungle in the Jungle' but I guarantee his second highest charting song would have elicited cheers and howls from the polite crowd.
Like Yes and Genesis, the grandiosity and pretentiousness of these prog rock groups such as Tull helped spark the punk rock movement in the mid-1970s. But there's no denying their rightful place in the diverse pantheon of rock and roll.
Still, on this tour, I think Tull really misses the guitar stylings of their longtime right-hand man Martin Barre, who left the band in 2012 after 43 years. Barre brought a hard rock element, deftly contrasting Anderson's Celtic musings and flute playing. The flute feels more like a shtick now, sort of like the knuckleball in baseball. Use it if you want to but it doesn't really fit and never seems to catch on.
Also, what started out this show as a history of Jethro Tull narrative quickly got sidetracked, skipping an entire decade before ending with the two biggies from Aqualung, their fourth album in 1971. Better sequencing and song selection were needed to tell their story and keep everyone engaged. Unfortunately, Tull seems to be a great studio band whose talent and energy doesn't translate to live performances so well.