Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Ian Anderson at the Birchmere!

“Sand castle virtues are all swept away
In the tidal destruction, the moral melee.
--Ian Anderson, Thick as a Brick

Notre Dame classmate (and BG select—woot!) Ed Burley invited me to a fun night out just before his departure for a short tour of A’stan. The gig: Jethro Tull’s Ian Anderson and his current band live at Alexandria’s Birchmere. This was my first time seeing Ian Anderson perform live, and my first experience at the venerable venue. Raves for both!

Another ND classmate, Patty Perry Geiger, joined us virtually by commenting on my Facebook status update within seconds of my posting it. And of course, I could not help but think of best bud Tom Anhut, in whose Morrissey Manor dorm room I had listened to Jethro Tull for the first time, years ago.  It was a concert, yes, but it was also a Notre Dame reunion of sorts.

An advantage of advancing age is the delightful way in which experiences and connections can infuse present moments with pleasant bits of nostalgia.  Readers under 20 years of age will just have to wait a few decades to fully appreciate what I mean by that.

We’re all a little older now, but Ian is holding up very well. He’s lost a lot of weight in the past three years and is again as thin as a rail, just as he was circa his 1976 album Too Old to Rock and Roll and Too Young to Die. He was all of 30 years old then, and here we are, 34 years later! His voice is more subtle. He wears a dew rag in place of his long-lost flowing curls. I loved his confident stage presence and the eloquent and witty introductions he gave for his fellow musicians and for each song they played. During the performance he still prances on the stage, still holds that one-legged tree stance while playing his flute, still makes those bizarre, eye-popping facial expressions, and still gesticulates wildly—very much the conductor, leader, and center of attention. I absolutely loved the way he often half-sang the notes he played, treating his flute like a kazoo and his voice like Louis Armstrong scat.

Speaking of aging well, the Birchmere was completely enjoyable in its 44th year of serving up decent food and beverages and some great music. We arrived at 6 for the 8 o’clock show, and found ourselves near the end of the 500-person line. Seating is first come, first served, so lesson learned! We did get great seats, right next to the stage but off to the side. Ours was the last table to fill because of the angle. People who came at 7:30 sat behind us leaving, as far as I could see, only two unfilled seats in the house.

I was quite impressed with the young German guitar impresario, Florian Opahle.  Ian, his keyboardist, bassist, and drummer are all from southwest England, and Florian is the only Continental European. He seems young and not entirely comfortable on the stage, but the kid can play!

The setlist for Mon night was the same as last Fri's concert in Orlando, except they added Florian’s brilliant guitar rendition of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor between Budapest and Aqualung.

I hope Ed’s pics turned out better than mine. Meanwhile, feast your eyes and ears on this, the encore performance of Locomotive Breath captured by someone sitting just to our left:

In commemoration of the night, I added three Ian Anderson songs to my Foam Fan playlist: Bourèe, Aqualung, and Locomotive Breath. I added an annotated setlist as a comment to this post. If you go to, you will see video clips next to the songs. If you search YouTube for “Ian Anderson Birchmere,” you will see at least 3 videos posted there (including the one I linked to). I have also posted lyrics to many of the evening’s songs as comments to this post. The complete discography including all lyrics can be found here: