Old Timers Bring Down the House

Ravinia Festival
Highland Park
Jethro Tull/Procol Harum
Sunday June 20, 2010

Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

Going to see Procol Harum was a leap of faith for me. Growing up and being so heavily influenced by lead vocalist Gary Brooker was one thing – seeing him and the band playing songs that are four decades old was another.

When he and the band strode out on stage in polo shirts and dress slacks – I thought it was someone’s grandpa got lost and wandered up onto the stage.

When he opened his mouth to sing; I was sure I was in the right place – maybe not the right time. His voice was flawless. How can this be 2010? This guy – this 65 year old man sang like it was 1972. The band worked their way through the old catalog and the new and about the time they got to “Conquistador” was I was in fits. At “Whiter Shade of Pale” you could have knocked me over with a feather.

Next – classic rock’s favorite leaping gnome took the stage at the breezy out door arena.

For the youngsters who are looking to expand into true “alternative’ music, the best place to start is Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull.

They were the original “alternative” band back in 1968.

While the rest of the rock music scene was screaming guitars and ripping off Robert Johnson and Willie Dixon, Tull was doing covers written by the likes of King Henry the 8th (you know the guy – fat, royal, cuts off heads…)

Anderson and company found a way to blend rock and roll with folk music – dashed with a little medieval-prog rock. Then they centered it all around Anderson and his flute.

With hits such as “Aqualung,” “Locomotive Breath,” and “Songs of the Wood” the group has sold over 60,000,000 records.

Tonight – despite all the years – all the tours – they played with the enthusiasm and humor of kids on a lark.

Anderson’s cod piece is gone (thankfully) but his trademark quasi-yoga poses and his urgent flute playing carried the night.

Martin Barre – guitar virtuoso and long time Anderson compadre – is 64-years old and I put his playing up against any of the younger players out there. He had been doing what he does on that Paul Reed Smith 513 for a long time – but his power and his passion come through on every note.

They blended the old hits with the newer cuts and gave the audience exactly what they came for – a rousing set of incredible music played by outstanding musicians.

This will likely be the highlight of the summer for live music. Not too many bands can span as many generations as these two bands. Even less bands out there could put on a show like I witnessed.

If you get a chance to see either of these bands – by all means – this is no nostalgia act. This is real rock and roll.

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