The hottest booking on the House of Blues schedule this Summer has been the two-night engagement of ’70s rock war-horse Jethro Tull, which months ago completely sold out in less than an hour — testament to the rabid loyalty of the group’s aging fanbase.
But despite the hero’s welcome that greeted the former Grammy-winning band when they hit the stage of the packed club, and in spite of the long drought between local gigs, this show was a bit disappointing because of the unfulfilling song selection and due to the sound mix that smothered the musicians.
Singer-flutist Ian Anderson — the original rock minstrel — flitted about the stage wearing a Garth Brooks-styled headset-microphone that gave him the look of an opera singer, but it didn’t project well, and much of what he said and sang was lost in the din. His voice has changed over the years as well, and is now higher and without the same depth that marks Tull’s classic sides.
Guitarist Martin Barre, whose unique tone and meaty playing style was obviously the reason that many in the house had bought their tickets, also was less than his usual spectacular self, though each of his solos was greeted by rousing applause.
The first-night song list featured typical versions of fan faves like “Aqualung,” “Cross-Eyed Mary” and the set-ending “Locomotive Breath,” but too much of the rest of the evening was devoted to ultra-obscure tracks and new, unreleased material, none of which compared to all the great tunes from the band’s catalog that were omitted.
Tull’s arrangement of J.S. Bach’s “Bouree,” the title track from 1977’s “Song From the Wood,” and a tricky reworking of 1969’s “A New Day Yesterday” were among the two-hour perf’s highlights.