"Thick as a Brick" the future has arrived

By John Benson


There’s something maniacal about Jethro Tull visionary Ian Anderson.

Back in the day, the prog-rock flautist, who released 30 studio and live albums and sold more than 60 million records with Tull, was known for his wild stage presentation. His hair was long and maddening looking, and he had an unorthodox stage pose with one leg bent and perched on the other knee.

Today the only thing that has changed for the classic-rock singer-guitarist is perhaps less hair, but he has a continued zeal toward his craft, which in recent years has meant performances as a solo artist around the globe with orchestras, string quartets and featured soloists.

Always the pragmatist, Anderson eschewed for decades what he said was a constant nag from record weasels to write a sequel to one of Jethro Tull’s greatest albums, 1972’s “Thick as a Brick.”

“I just got sick of hearing it, really,” said Anderson, calling from his U.K. home. “I never had any inclination to go back and revisit in some nostalgic sense an album that really felt very much like a one-off at the time we made it.”

However, after a musician friend questioned what the original album’s main character, the 8-year-old Gerald Bostock, would be doing in the modern day, Anderson had a change of heart.

For some reason, Anderson admitted this line of thinking sparked a fire. In early 2011, within a few weeks he had written what would become “Thick as a Brick 2,” which he said is more of an update of the character than a sequel.

Anderson said the new effort not only contains similar sounds from the original album’s sonic palette but shows five different plausible futures for Bostock. This includes a materialistic investment banker, a homosexual homeless man, an Afghan War soldier, an evangelist preacher and a mundane shopkeeper.

Now after releasing “Thick as a Brick 2” earlier this year, Anderson is touring the project this fall for what amounts to a Jethro Tull fan’s dream. Anderson will be playing both the original and follow-up in its entirety Sunday at the Akron Civic Theatre. In true Anderson style, he’s warning audiences they better come prepared.

“If people come along thinking they’re going to hear ‘Aqualung’ and ‘Locomotive Breath’ and whistle and hoot and holler and bop up and down, forget it,” Anderson said. “Stay home. This is not that. It’s back-to-back, two quite complex pieces of progressive-rock music presented in quite a theatrical way with audio-visual elements and additional performers.”

When it’s pointed out such a prog-rock theatrical performance could lend itself to a Broadway production, Anderson showed his true colors as a touring rock ’n’ roll musician.

“I’m a leave-town-the-next-morning kind of guy,” Anderson said. “I just want to play one show and get the [expletive] out of there. I don’t want to hang around. The idea of going to the same stage door day after day, it’s just so creepy and so sad. I occupy a dressing room for one night and don’t want to see it again for at least a year.”

He added, “In terms of what happens next in my life, I’m on tour around the world through 2013. I’ll be 66 by then, and at my age, it’s probably a little dangerous to make plans beyond two or three years because all around me people are dropping like flies. I’m not exactly pessimistic but realistic.”

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