Segerstrom Hall is not a typical venue for a rock concert. It frequently hosts musicals, classical acts, and dance extravaganzas, and the audiences it usually hosts are quintessentially the "white-hairs" of Orange County. However, Ian Anderson's show is not your everyday rock; the legendary musician's show is quite theatrical, and Segerstrom was an ideal venue for him to perform his new album, Homo Erraticus, as well as a set of Jethro Tull's greatest hits.
The show was reminiscent of Neil Young's Greendale tour in that it consisted of a multi-media presentation of a concept-album followed by a satisfying throwback to old times — a sure way to appeal to classicists. The Homo Erraticus album consists of folksy Irish motifs, powerhouse progressive rock jams, and challenging lyrical content. [see the Weekly's interview with Ian Anderson on the creation of the album] Prior to the Homo Erraticus set, a short introductory film showed Anderson and his bandmates as a patient and his doctors, respectively, at a remote sanitarium. The doctors pull the sheet over the dormant Anderson, declaring him dead, and file out of the room. Anderson then pulls the sheet back, mutters a bit [it was hard to tell what he said due to the crowd's woots], climbs out of bed, extracts his flute from a nearby cabinet, and leaves the sanitarium.
The band then appeared onstage. With the exception of Anderson, everyone wore the same outfits as they had in the film. The film, which included additional narrative elements as well as montage imagery, ran for the duration of the set. It included juxtapositions of Roman galeas with images of modern capitalism (e.g. magazines, fast food containers, sexy girls, etc.), images of a veiled vagrant wandering across rural landscapes (as on the album's cover), pictures of Jesus Christ superimposed over those of Che Guevara, and a green alien commentator who suggests that the human race may have run its course. As in the case of the Neil Young show, many of the folks in attendance were flustered by the music and imagery of the first set, but despite some lack of comprehension, the performance of the material was outstanding.[
Anderson's singing was supplemented by Shakespearean and musical theater performer Ryan O'Donnell. The Jethro Tull website credits O'Donnell for providing "vocals and stage antics," and though the performance of the "pinch hitting" thespian additionally moves the show from rock concert further into musical theater (albeit experimental theater) territory, the intensity of some of the jams — as well as Anderson's trademark one leg stance — reminded the audience that within the layers of showmanship was a legendary rocker. During the second set, when Anderson revisited his classic Tull music, the crowd peeled back its own layers of age and decorum; many whipped out their cellphones to capture a bit of the magic, and the woots increased at an exponential rate.
Adding to this, the accompanying film depicted Anderson performing as characters and as himself in many vintage clips. Seeing him lurch around as Quasimodo and stalk his prey as a vampire were amusing, but it was througn the historic studio and concert footage (which was synchronized with the live performance of respective songs — whether it was he or O'Donnell singing), that the audience was reminded of how intense and insane Anderson was back in the day.
The years may have robbed Anderson of his hair, his slender physique, and his viciousness on stage, but this show was more than just a shadow of an amazing past. It demonstrated the evolution of an uncompromising artist. Anderson has gone where few other artists have been able to go, and this is not a reference to his music being played on space shuttle missions. His classic tunes remain great, and he fully embraces them; at the same time, he continues to follow his muse…wherever it takes him.