Ian Anderson, the frontman of Jethro Tull plays the flute while Unnur Birna Björnsdóttir joins the live action through a video displayed on the big screen. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Ian Anderson, the frontman of Jethro Tull plays the flute while Unnur Birna Björnsdóttir joins the live action through a video displayed on the big screen. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

“So, tell me, how does Jethro Tull sound in the ears of a young guy like you?” a man in his late 60’s asked while we were standing in the line for beer and wine during the interlude.

“It’s one hell of a rock band,” I said.

The man nodded in approval.

He said that he had seen Jethro Tull playing live for 11 times . . . “well actually 12,” he continued, “But I don’t really count the first one because I was seriously drunk.”

It had been one heart-pounding hour while listening to the legendary British band live for the first time, a group, who many consider one of the godfathers of progressive rock and one of the legendary groups still alive and performing well.

On Wednesday, the House of Culture in Helsinki was sold out, the benches were filled with people in their 40’s-70s, most wearing regular clothes but some clad in fan T-shirts and some even wearing a bikers vest stating “Jethro Tull” on the back.

Tull planted its roots during the British blues boom in the late ’60s, but became known of their progressive form a few years later. Helsinki was one of the destinations for their tour of The Rock Opera, where hallucinated images looped on a screen in the background, balancing between supporting vocalists and farm animals.

Tull opened with their folkish “Heavy Horses” from their homonymous 11th studio album recorded in ’78. The song was a taster of how well frontman Ian Anderson’s voice would hold at a respectable age of 68 (he turns 69 in August).

They continued with “Wind-Up” from their ’71 Aqualung. The song combined an atmospheric piano melody and a slow melodic folk guitar, and the tune slowly accumulated into an interesting composition.

Tull picked up steam with their title song of the very same album, creating a stunning hard rock experience.

Anderson displayed talented flute play on “With You There” giving a taster of how the flute would dominate a large part of the evening.

Ian Anderson and guitarist Florian Opahle. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Ian Anderson and guitarist Florian Opahle. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

“Farm on Freeway” from their ’87 album Crest of a Knave played as a masterpiece in my ears. The updated sound of the late ’80s, avoiding the cliché keyboard sounds and guitars clad in cheesy effects. Instead Anderson’s flute sounded sharp and fulfilling, creating a hypnotic loop, a foreplay between the guitar of Florian Opahle and the keyboard of John O’Hara, while Scott Hammond’s drums provided a pounding heavy rock beat.

“Weathercock” was an amazing dance between the flute, mandolin, guitar and high vocals. Anderson’s energy appeared inexhaustible. He was dancing and running about the stage with his flute, sometimes standing on one leg as in their famous logo.

According to the fan I met earlier during the interlude, Anderson was running “totally insane” in his younger days and had now understandably slowed down a bit. Back in the days he was also relying less on backup vocals than today. Nevertheless, in my eyes and ears, the years had not taken much toll and his voice remained crisp and clear.

The big climax of the show after about two hours was “Locomotive Breath” from Aqualung – their finest song in my opinion. The group seemed fully aware of the fact and delayed every part from the keyboard intro to the last hit of the drum until the lights went off and the darkness echoed with applauds.

SETLIST JETHRO TULL, THE ROCK OPERA, HELSINKI MARCH 9 2016
Ian Anderson. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

Ian Anderson. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

ALL TITLES & ARRANGEMENTS – IAN ANDERSON

Heavy Horses

Wind Up

Not a well man

Aqualung

…………Been a right wheeze

With You There

Back To Family

Farm on Freeway

…………Sod and turf

Prosperous Pasture Fruits Frankenfield

I’m on to something

Songs F T W

And The World

Living in the Past

All magick, smoke

Jack-In-The-Green

The Witch’s Promise

………..Brave new world

Weathercock

Stick, Twist, Bust

Cheap Day Return

A New Day Yesterday

The Turnstile Gate

Loco Breath

Requiem and Fugue