By Cathy DeDe, Chronicle Managing Editor
As if last September’s sold-out, high-energy concert by longtime Jethro Tull guitarist Martin Barre and his new, young three-man band at The Strand Theater in Hudson Falls wasn’t enough — Mr. Barre returns this week to the Strand, not only to play but to rehearse and then launch his blow-out U.S. tour marking the 50th anniversary of English prog-rock band Jethro Tull’s United States debut in September 1969.
This new tour includes two key former Jethro Tull bandmates — Dee (formerly David) Palmer on the keyboards, and Clive Bunker on drums — alongside Mr. Barre’s already crackerjack current band of Dan Crisp on lead vocals, Alan Thomson on bass, Darby Todd on drums — plus guests Becca Langsford and Ali Hart on backup vocals.
‘Hudson Falls is going to be descended upon,’ Mr. Barre warned The Chronicle last Saturday during a brief phone interview from England…“descended upon by every freighting agency in the U.S.” — for all the equipment and pyrotechnics coming our way, Mr. Barre jokes.
“The hotel will have no spaces at all. Everything is coming to Hudson Falls.”
He says, “It’s going to be utter chaos, and out of chaos comes great music. It will be fantastic.”
See the picture above to get a sense of how enthusiastic Mr. Barre was at the close of his first concert at The Strand last fall. After the show, he and his band hung out for hours at Maxwell’s Pub next door, talking to Strand director Jonathan Newell and core Strand crew members.
Was Mr. Barre’s experience here as enthralling as it seemed at the time?
“I wasn’t really,” he jokes. “Every gig we do is the best.”
Then he redirects. “No. It was a lovely theater, and the people were really welcoming. It’s a truly lovely place, low key. It’s a great theater.”
Something struck, enough that he planned to make himself at home here for a week before the concert tour, to work out the kinks and bring the band and special effects together.
Mr. Barre promises, “There’s going to be video screens, voiceovers, background singers, more musicians and more lighting effects. It’ll be a completely different show.”
He says, “It’s the history of 50 years of Jethro Tull in the U.S.”
He adds, “We have, for the first time, three original members of Jethro Tull together, who haven’t been together on stage in probably 30 years. It’s the purest bloodline of the band, a very special lineup.”
“We will have Dee Palmer here, playing her own keyboard parts, and Clive Bruce playing his own drum parts. It’s historically important and exciting, very special.”
Typically, Jethro Tull music is an important part of any Martin Barre tour, he said, but Mr. Barre has long made his own way on solo recordings and original music as well.
This observer went in excited for “Jethro Tull,” and left the September concert a fan of Martin Barre, for both his virtuosity, his generosity and humor on stage.
“It’ll be a little difficult,” Mr. Barre says of the new show. We will not be playing my own music at all. That’s very different.”
Going back to the Jethro Tull exclusively, learning it with his own band and the integrated former bandmates has been “very interesting,” Mr. Barre, 72, says.
“Dee and Clive are new to big tours,” he said, “so we are being very slow and sure about our routine. They are very, very excited. They were a big part of the history.
He says, “They are a total equal part of the band and have a lot of stage time and visibility in the music. We have worked very intensely and very hard on the new show and it will come through during the performance.”
“It’s very complex music. I like challenges. The rewards are gonna be enormous.”
The show, he says, “takes the music from the last 50 years all the way through Stand Up, Aqua Lung, Heavy Horses. It’s a real kaleidoscope of musical ideas.”
How has his experience of the music scene changed in 50 years?
Mr. Barre says, “In 1969, we had a very basic routine. Gigs were very run down and nobody could predict the outcome. Lots of drugs and lots of bad music, but loads of venues and keen fans. The PA’s and back line gear was very unreliable.
“Now we have so much more control over all aspects and can predict a much better quality show.”
He says, “the most vital Tull line up was around the Bursting Out tour. We had a great line up with a very established show.
The camaraderie was amazing too and we were selling out everything we did
For this weekend, he adds, “Nobody has ever heard this before, the songs like this.”
Note that iconic frontman Ian Anderson is on his own separate Jethro Tull 50th anniversary tour, with his own band.
Box office details
50 Years of Jethro Tull plays The Strand Theatre on Main Street, downtown Hudson Falls, Friday and Saturday, April 12 and 13, at 8 p.m. Tix: “$50 for 50 years,” they say, general admission.
Box office: 832-3484, or online at Brown Paper Tickets.
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