In the crash of concert-goers thronging the entrance to the Berkeley Community Theater on Summer Solstice Eve, Darling Dolly Dane pops up for her first major pop event since Altamont. “Heavily into Scientology” these days, the scrawny, scabies-pimpled runaway waif from Petaluma (“Egg Basket of the West”) races from person to person in the shuffling crowd, gripping each of them urgently by the wrist if they permit her, chanting a variation of her old spare-change hustle: “Don’t be a tacky cunt, hon. Do me some good. Sell me your ticket. Sell me your ticket. Do me some good, hon. Sell me your fuckin’ ticket.“
Inside the hall, the smell of burning weed is stronger than a ten-minute egg, and Livingston Taylor warms up the capacity audience by shimmying like his sister Kate — perching on a stool, forcing funk. When Taylor disappears to sustained but not insistent applause, Ian Anderson springs on stage, brandishing an acoustic guitar like a broadsword. “Welcome to the Andy Williams Show,” he harrumphs, looking nothing if not tatty piss-elegant in skin-tight yellow breeks, a brocade sash that serves as a kind of codpiece, medieval-style boots, and a long plaid jerkin-coat. A scalding pink spotlight accents his hair like a ratty halo. Anderson surveys the hushed crowd for a minute, smiles privately, strikes a harsh chord on the guitar, and launches into “My God” from the new Jethro Tull LP, Aqualung. The crowd goes ecstatic.
Anderson himself goes all but beserk as he raves against “the bloody Church of England,” hopping about on one leg, grimacing, twitching, gasping, lurching along the apron of the stage, rolling his eyes, paradiddling his arms, feigning flinging snot from his nose, exchanging the guitar for a flute, gnawing on the flute like corn on the cob, flinging it forward like a baton, gibbering dementedly.
The other members of Tull, laid back till now, come in on cue, louder than the last clap of doom. Anderson wiggles his ass at the crowd with a fey flip of the hips that leaves his outflung wrist limp. John Evan, who resembles an unmade bed with hair spilling out the bolster, hammers maniacally away at the piano. The ferret-faced drummer, Barriemore Barlow, flails savagely at his traps. Martin Barre attacks his guitar as if it were the throat of his foulest enemy. Bassist Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond detonates rhythm lines like thunderclaps.
Throughout the evening, Ian Anderson moves like a manic dancer, emotes like an Actor’s Studio dropout. “C’mon, gods, let there be lights,” he bawls when a spot fails to follow him across stage. “That’s Mac’s fault,” he wheezes, referring to a roadie. “Hmm, I feel a bit strange tonight. I might do something weird … I might just go up there and jump on Mac. Ah, I guess not — Mac wants a bit of crack.”
“Mac-mac-mac-mac-mac,” John Evan babbles, fiddling around with a wooden crutch.
Anderson scowls intently at the mike before him. “My Gawd,” he crows, “me microphone stand has an erection.”
“How was Denver?” somebody calls from the audience. Tull had played there a few nights before during a police helicopter tear-gas attack on some would-be gatecrashers at the open-air Red Rocks Amphitheater.
John Evan puts on an aggrieved face. “This is how it was,” he says, limping with the crutch.
The music resumes, building to a demonic rendition of “Aqualung” that lifts neck hair all over the auditorium and fuses an explosive ovation. During Martin Barre’s long feedback solo, Anderson disappears, then minces back in a ghastly green light, phallic flute in hand, to trade a series of dazzling runs with John Evan on organ. While Barriemore Barlow solos on drums on “Cross-Eyed Mary,” Anderson toys with the companion to John Evan’s crutch, strumming it like a guitar, trying to make it stand in balance.
During “Nothing Is Easy,” the music swells darkly, and there is a galvanic moment, a moment of sheer terror, while Anderson hangs poised over the lip of the stage on one leg, swaying precipitously. Recovering, he smirks self-derisively and strokes his flute as if it were a penis. John Evan seems transfixed by the pounding music. Rising from the keyboard, he lurches around the stage, clapping deliriously.
At about this point in the evening, which comes to a stunning full circle when Anderson calculatedly finesses the already drained audience by repeating “Aqualung,” it’s abundantly clear that Jethro Tull is hardly your household-variety – British – rock – and – roll – band – on-tour. In energy, invention, and performance, the group is more like a natural force, a wind or a river.
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The next afternoon, the day of the Summer Solstice, the five members of Tull — Blackpool lads all, ranging in age from 21 to 24 — are sprawled about a suite at the Holiday Inn near Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco, chatting v/ith visitors and sipping Lowenbrau beer. Jennie, Ian Anderson’s wife and the author of the lyrics to “Aqualung,” sits at a cool remove from the others; she is frail, tiny, and shy to the point of pain.