Jethro Tull is a rather experimental group, one whose songs can best be described as “irreverent yet tasteful,” or maybe even “rock flute.” Yes, rock flute. Jethro Tull’s most notable instrument is the flute of band leader Ian Anderson, whose mastery of an otherwise delicate instrument is remarkable, particularly since he plays it “hard” and incorporates it with electric guitar and other modern rock instruments. The band made its only live appearance at the famed Montreux Jazz Festival in 2003, splitting its concert into two halves: a mostly acoustic 11 songs followed by a full-on electric set of eight more. Eagle Rock Entertainment has recently released the entire concert on Blu-ray Disc, the first time HD owners have access to a performance that Ian Anderson himself admits is raw, “warts and all.”
As with any Blu-ray concert, the audio quality is really the most important factor, and by and large, the DTS HD Master Lossless Audio delivers. Because of the eclectic mix of instruments — not to mention the very nature of Jethro Tull’s music — the fidelity of individual instruments is marginal at best, although the harmonica, flute and acoustic guitar segments come through quite clearly. Oddly enough, the few piano segments included in these sets aren’t nearly as clear as the piano/keyboard segments in Legends at Montreux (with Eric Clapton, among others), which is surprising considering this Jethro Tull recording is six years newer.
In terms of the audio on the whole, though, it’s worth the reminder that Jethro Tull has great musicians. But Ian Anderson, with all due respect, is not a great singer. There’s a difference between being a good musician and being a good singer — a very big one, in this case. In DTS HD, it’s occasionally painful to listen to Anderson, who sings like he’s performing Judas numbers from Jesus Christ Superstar. Every. Single. Time. Still, the mix of rock and flute still makes for a unique lossless experience, because there are many distinct nuances to pick up. In a sense, it’s like listening to an early influencer of Blue Man Group or Cirque du Soleil, which also mix unique sounds like this. Flute, accordion and electric guitar? Yep, it’s that unique.
The AVC-encoded 1080i video has fantastic saturation and vibrant colors, with very deep blacks and great contrast between set pieces, lights and performers. The stage lighting is quite good in this concert, as it ably mixing background and directional/spot lighting, and this quality comes through clearly in the Blu-ray transfer. However, the cinematography isn’t quite as strong, with some zoom shots being out of focus, and a few cuts between musicians and/or instruments coming in too-rapid succession.
No matter our opinion of the audio or video quality, the moral of the story with this Blu-ray concert is really quite simple: if you’re a fan of Jethro Tull, you will enjoy this Disc. However, if you’re just a fan of experimental genres or simply curious about how flute mixes with electric guitar, you’re better off renting rather than buying. Jethro Tull is unique, but the group’s arguably a bit too unique to recommend the concert hands-down.
- Score: 6.5
- The audio quality only excels on a few instruments, and the band itself doesn’t have the universal appeal to warrant risking a purchase for music that you might not like.
— Jonas Allen