DVD: Jethro Tull - Live at Madison Square Garden 1978
Released: October 20, 2009
Jethro Tull live in 1978? Haven't we already heard that? The ill-timed Bursting Out was from European dates of the same tour and that immediately begs the question, of all the live Tull recordings sitting in the vaults, why release yet another form the Heavy Horses tour?
Depending on your feelings about progressive rock, this concert could be seen as either a high point of the genre or as an example of the overindulgence that forced it to collapse under its own weight (with a little help from the simple DIY ethos of punk). Certainly no other prog band brought rock, classical and folk together in quite as dynamic a way as Jethro Tull. This concert proves that they were a tight and musically adventurous group who could move deftly between pastoral folk and grooving heaviness just as easily live as they could in the studio.
One true advantage of this package over the aforementioned Bursting Out is the inclusion of the DVD. More than most bands, Jethro Tull, or Ian Anderson more specifically, is a visual spectacle. The engaging and eccentric Anderson, whether as vocalist, flutist, percussionist or simply frontman, walks the line between theatrical and simply insane throughout. However, he's anything but aloof (his crack about the balding Martin Barre being "close behind Elton John" was great). He somehow brings his outlandish personality down to earth, resulting in a performance that is both over the top and completely accessible.
The concert was filmed for satellite broadcast (the first from America on British TV) over 30 years ago, so the video quality isn't superior by today's high def standards, but complaining about it would be nitpicking. The concert is a real gem for prog fans and even entertaining to all but the genre's true naysayers. Does it warrant release despite being from a tour already documented with an official release? If this package only included the CD, the answer would be, "Not really," but seeing Anderson and company in action is another story altogether.