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Jethro Tull - Slipstream (DVD) CD (album) cover


Jethro Tull


Prog Folk

3.85 | 52 ratings

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The Whistler
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Who is the most loveable figure in all of English literature? Oliver Twist, professional loveable orphan? Jim Hawkins...uh, other professional loveable orphan? No! It's Aqualung! Old man with a lung disorder and lack of house! Whose endearing antics include waking up one morning in the middle of nowhere (note the newspaper), only to be pursued by giant balloons, before seeking refuge in a theater. And some drinking.

Thus opens the ingenious rock video/concert footage-fusion that is Slipstream. The plot is as follows: Aqualung, as I said, escapes the giant balloons to a movie theater, that just so happens to be showing a live Jethro Tull concert. From there, we get some performances from the A tour and an eclectic collection of music videos which occasionally advance the Aqualung "plot." The track listing is, at face value, flawless. The only number in the show I'm not crazy about is Too Old to Rock and Roll, and it's not like I hate it or anything.

We open with the above mentioned introduction, and after our hero creeps into his seat, the stage lights up with one of the A album's better numbers, Black Sunday. In fact, this Black Sunday beats out the original by a long shot (better than anything on the album too; I always said that Tull live shows can make up for the stylisitic failures of the studio material). It's brimming with energy, packed to the bursting point for Martin's second guitar solo, followed by an equally energetic flute solo from Ian.

Skip to Dun Ringill, which is one of my favorites off Stormwatch. It's just the album version played over Ian strumming at the beach, but that doesn't stop Dave Pegg and Martin Barre from popping up magically. Then, we're transported to Fylingdale Flyer, my absolute favorite off A. This is also my favorite music video of the lot, with Ian and the lads storming about a missile control center or something. Ian's best face mugging on "They checked the system through, and it rests, a-okay!" Heh. The video also contains one of the best blunders in the show; one of the kids stares directly into the camera...

Back to the live show for a quick round of Songs From the Wood. It, of course, pales in comparison to the studio version, but that was so lush and over the top that it can't really be recreated on stage. In fact, I prefer this live version to the one on Bursting Out, mainly because instead of trying to copy the original, the Tullers just try to make it rock. Which is what they do best.

Speaking of rock, the next number, Heavy Horses, does just that. Oh boy does it do just that. THAT is the way to geld a song. It also pairs Eddie Jobson's violin with Ian's flute to creative effect. Of course, there was a violin in the studio version, but Eddie is just better.

Cut to: Sweet Dream. Another video, this time with Aqualung battling a vampire, some vampire nurses, a giant spider, a demonic film projectionist, and a nun. It's generally regarded as a highlight of the show, and it is indeed one. It includes such classic moments as Aqualung rejecting the ballerina's aid...and many more. It is also NOT, by the way, the studio version; no, it's a live version. From Bursting Out. Which explains why the drum intro sounds like No Lullaby (is that why the drum intro on 4WD off A also sounds like No Lullaby?).

One more video, this time, Too Old to Rock 'n Roll. I'm not really a big fan of this song, a little slow and repetitive for me, but the video brings out the hidden goonery in the song. To quote...someone, "WATCH OUT FOR WOODEN DUCKS!"

This turns into Skating Away which might as well be the best song in the whole show. Everyone trades instruments: Dave Pegg picks up a lute, Jobson picks up a mandolin and Mark Craney picks up a bass; Ian keeps his guitar. Martin goes offstage to take a leak or something. And you know what? It's flawless. The build through the three verses is perfect. It even takes down the original in terms of pure emotion. Jobson's mandolin is, literally, beautiful. Sniff. In fact, I feel no shame whatsoever in calling this the best song in the show and declaring it THE version of Skating Away. Feedback and all.

Anyway, sometime during the aforementioned Skating Away, Aqualung is kicked out of the theater, so clearly it's time for Aqualung my friend! And quite an Aqualung it is. Awesome guitar solo, one of the best that song has fit around. But then, can that number be screwed up? I don't know...however, it IS possible to screw up Locomotive Breath.

Locomotive Breath, which is the encore performance, is...sloppy. Messy. Crumby. Hate to say it, but it's true. I really hate to say though, because it had a goofy intro where the stage lights up again with Jobson banging the synths (considering the crew they got, this is probably the best they could do), but it twists and turns from that, changing tempos and overstaying its welcome until it's become a reprise of Black Sunday, and it's not exactly the best part of that song.

But the ending is saved from utter destruction by one last appearance of our man Aqualung, leaving such questions as, why did the theater fly into space? Was this, the show, the balloons, the Nazi theater ushers, real, or an alcohol induced illusion? And why did the shopping cart explode? We may never know...and I'm not sure we'd want to...

There are, of course, some problems, other than Songs and Locomotive Breath that is. The sound, for example, doesn't always sync up with the image onscreen, resulting in Ian's hellspawn ability to play the flute without putting it to his lips during Black Sunday. Also, some of the video effects are...okay, most of the video effects during the live numbers are stoopid at worst (the weird closeups during Heavy Horses), and laughable at best (the slo-mo of Martin during Aqualung).

However, if you're a true Tull fan, there's no way you won't enjoy this. And there is one really good reason for this: it's fun! Sure, the lads can still rock (Aqualung, and more importantly, Heavy Horses prove this), and they can transpose the studio version to the stage beautifully (Horses again, but let's not forget Skating Away). But it's all just so fun! Even the cheezy effects are, once you get used to 'em. That's what A is all about, right? A-cceptance?

And the show is loaded with great stage moments (sadly, no real stage banter from Ian; we just get the funny pronunciation of "heavy HOR-ses"). For instance, Ian throws his trademark air-guitar-on-the-crotch-flute in during Martin's solo from Black Sunday. But I just love Dave Pegg's little additions here and there. Like on Songs from the Wood, where he sings along on the line, "To make you feel much better than you could know." And on that second YOU, he points into the audience, as if he could see someone who REALLY needed a Song from the Wood. Or two. Or three. "God, you look pretty bad...maybe we need to sing you some Songs from the Wood, and say, half of Heavy Horses too."

Yes, you can analyze the videos all you want, be it the white jumpsuits of Fylingdale or the pinball machine of Too Old, but you need look no further than Dave Pegg. He's just having a blast on stage. I mean, Ian's happy, but Ian's always happy in front of an audience. Martin's happy, but of course he's happy; he's our big, goofy guitar hero. He's just happy that Ian's still signing his paycheck. Even the unflappable Jobson cracks a smile during his one-legged solo for Locomotive Breath. But Dave...gosh. He's just bouncing along throughout the whole damn show. As should we all. As should...we all.

The Whistler | 4/5 |


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