When I was 12 or 13, I discovered Jethro Tull’s album Stand Up. I played it endlessly on a portable record player in our treehouse. Good times.
Fast forward, now 16, working in a donut shop, in the throes of first love and getting to attend my first rock concert, Jethro Tull. The band had just released “Aqualung”. I’d upgraded to a stereo (with my meager earnings slinging donuts) and nearly wore out that album.
That concert was mesmerizing – Ian Anderson playing the flute in between lyrics that were poetic – juxtaposed with war, religion, infidelity, prostitution and an odd homeless man (the aforementioned Aqualung). All this while standing on one leg, then high kicking said leg – while still playing the flute. It was blazed into my memory as clearly as my first kiss – yes, pretty potent performance value.
The opportunity to see Ian Anderson perform the Best of Jethro Tull in Buffalo, Spence’s hometown, was irresistible and somehow destined. But here’s a little twist (like when the universe gives me added knowledge). We’re staying in a HomeAway property in Sedona a few weeks ago. A lovely home with buddhas, goddesses, fountains, yoga mats and breathtaking views (you get the idea – very zen) there were also baskets of magazines lying about. Just one thing – all were Rolling Stone magazines. And back issues at that. In rifling through them, I found an October 2013 issue featuring “The Walking Dead” with actor Andrew Lincoln on the cover. Now you might be thinking here, “what does this have to do with Jethro Tull?“. Well guess what – Andrew Lincoln (who plays the lead character, Sheriff Rick Grimes in the Walking Dead) revealed in the interview that he’s married to Ian’s daughter! Ha! Bet you didn’t see that coming. The flute-playing-on-one-leg rock and roll icon is the father-in-law of the most prolific zombie-killing survivalist in history. “Would Ian make mention of this at the concert?” I mused. I mean he’s gotta feel pretty proud of his son in law’s success right? Time would tell……
Armed with this factoid and certain that 98% of those in attendance were not, I waited. After the first song, Ian cleverly addressed the crowd with “this next song is enough to raise the Walking Dead“. My head spun to look at Spence – ha! Then later a song with background images that included Hitler, George Bush, Churchill and others, was a collage of photos that included that cover of Rolling Stone – right smack in the middle – and then some lyrics and images making reference to zombies. He never made another reference. But Ian knows. And Spence and I know. Wink.
Back to the concert. Ian still performs on one leg (a lot), kicks (though not quite as high as before – but hey, he’s 67) and sang those same songs that blew my socks off at 16. I was a bit freaked out that they ended without playing “Locomotive Breath” (the lyrics made such an impression that I’d composed a writing assignment for a college class in my 30’s built around that song). This music will always be part of my life’s soundtrack.
I shouldn’t have worried. That was their encore song. As we left I realized my face hurt from smiling. I flashed back to my 16 year old self realizing that’s the same thing I felt leaving that first concert.