The Chop House: Jethro Tull Bring Folk-Prog Mania to London in 1977

With “The Chop House,” we explore classic performances from bands with — you know — “chops.” Genres like progressive rock, art-rock, jazz-fusion — they’re nearly extinct in our current music culture. These days, we live (and consume art) impatiently, favoring a quick fix over a challenge. But here at Hidden Track, we refuse to let the dazzling, confrontational spirit of these wonderful bands die.

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I’m currently knee-deep in a full-on Jethro Tull obsession, so I thought this was a fitting time to share a concert from these idiosyncratic folk-prog legends.

While Tull have always been best known for their 1971 masterpiece, Aqualung, and the subsequent prog-rock parody Thick as a Brick, Ian Anderson and company continued to churn out remarkable music throughout their decades-long career. My (current) favorite Tull album is 1977’s Songs from the Wood, which blends fanciful folk tales with some of the densest, most intricately assembled prog-rock the band ever recorded. It’s an incredibly dynamic album — and an overlooked gem next to its more famous discog-mates from the early ’70s.

This featured concert (at London’s Hippodrome on October 2nd, 1977) finds the band promoting that classic LP in reliably entertaining fashion. As always, Anderson proves his status as one of the most magnetic frontmen in rock history: Between spot-on flute solos, intricate acoustic guitar figures, and lovely vocal turns, he shows off his Monty Python-esque sense of humor through subtle in-jokes and manic facial expressions. It’s literally impossible not to look at this guy. (God, I wish I’d been alive to see these guys back then.)

Throughout the hour-long set, Tull blend then-new tracks like “Velvet Green” and “Jack in the Green” with the obvious classics (a slightly slowed-down “Brick” medley, a stirring take on “Aqualung”) and a lovely “Skating Away.” My favorite moment of the entire concert is when Anderson, painfully aware that playing “the new stuff” isn’t a popular choice, responds to the lone cheering of a male audience member: “Cheers! Thank you,” he says. “Mama’s got a deep voice tonight, hasn’t she?” (Another great moment: “The album I was telling you about — the new one — we ought to take a commercial break about now, I think?”)

Check out the full concert — in all its silliness and musical splendor — below.

Full Band Line-Up: Ian Anderson (vocals, flute, acoustic guitar), Martin Barre (electric guitar), John Glascock (bass guitar), John Evan (keyboards), David Palmer (keyboards), Barriemore Barlow (drums and percussion)

Setlist

1. Intro
2. Skating Away
3. Jack In The Green
4. Thick As A Brick
5. Songs From The Wood
6. Velvet Green
7. Hunting Girl
8. Aqualung
9. Wind Up
10. Locomotive Breath
11. End

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