Jethro Tull – Around the World Live (2013)

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When digging through this massive new four-DVD set of concerts from across the storied career of Jethro Tull, “Aqualung” provides a series of revelations — working as a kind of road map for the way the band evolved.

Around the World Live, a June 25, 2013 release from Eagle Rock which chronicles performances between 1970’s Isle of Wight Festival and 2005’s Estival at Lugano Switzerland, also includes photos from frontman Ian Anderson’s personal collection, an expanded interview with Anderson from 1999, and new liner notes from Joel McIver, too.

Through it all, however, the title track from Jethro Tull’s classic 1971 release is a consistent presence, even as it remains ever changing — an echo for the band itself. Here’s a look at this set’s three separate complete takes on “Aqualung,” from 1980, 1996 and 2005 …

Performing the track at in Munich in 1980, Anderson approaches the lyric with a bug-eyed, long-haired mania, ignoring the acoustic guitar slung around his neck — and barking the track’s famously pervy lyric with a delicious recklessness. Every monstrous strum of Martin Barre’s guitar seems to send him into ever more orgasmic fits of howling fury — pushing the period-piece microphone to its very limit. When Anderson arrives, finally, at the song’s brief acoustic interlude, the German crowd bursts into a spontaneous moment of applause — as if to sigh, after the intensity of everything that came before.

Even before Anderson is finished, however, you see Barre getting set up behind him, standing at the ready to unleash another torrent of sound from his poor abused guitar. He adds a few bluesy licks before rejoining “Aqualung” with a suitable bad intent — though, as per usual, the spotlight remains on Anderson’s weird gyrations for far too long, even as Barre explores a boiling solo.

Fast forward to 1996, in Santiago, Chile, and “Aqualung” has a completely reworked beginning. A keyboard, at first, replaces Barre’s titanic riff, and Anderson begins with flute in hand. The song’s inherent danger, its white-knuckle fury, has been replaced by something more contemplative — even, well, pretty — before Barre belatedly makes his triumphal entry.

Save for that shiver-inducing groove, however, Anderson’s vocal continues of a piece with the quieter intro, taking on a far more measured — even, well, ruminative — tack. It’s one of the four-disc set’s most intriguing surprises.

Finally, there’s a 2005 set at Lugano, Switerland, which finds Anderson and Barre resuming their twin spots at the front of the stage, and taking an approach — save for the fact that both have a lot less hair, facial and other wise — that circles back completely to the 1980 performance of “Aqualung” from Disc 1 of Around the World. Anderson sings with a perfectly reckless abandon, while Barre brilliantly saws away on his instrument.

By this point, Anderson has long since begun using a smaller parlor guitar for the acoustic interlude, and it’s here that most completely re-animates the strange, lonesome thoughts of this unforgettable outsider. There’s less of the distracting theatricality from Anderson, though still a tendency from the camera man to spend more time on him even as Barre launches into another memorable solo, this one a wonder of angular design.

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Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso

Nick DeRiso has written for USA Today, American Songwriter, All About Jazz, and a host of others. Honored as columnist of the year five times by the Associated Press, Louisiana Press Association and Louisiana Sports Writers Association, he oversaw a daily section named Top 10 in the U.S. by the AP before co-founding Something Else! Nick is now associate editor of Ultimate Classic Rock.
Nick DeRiso
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