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Jethro Tull leader blows into town

Ian Anderson promises symphony will be heard
by: FRED TANNEAU, Ian Anderson, flutist, vocalist and the leader of British rock band Jethro Tull, joins the Oregon Symphony for a Nov. 13 show at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.

A few years ago, Ian Anderson, flutist, vocalist and leader of pioneer progressive rockers Jethro Tull, attended a performance of Metallica backed by a symphony orchestra. His verdict?

'Appalling, loud and rough,' Anderson says with barely disguised contempt. 'They completely ruined any useful role that the orchestra could play.'

The problem, he notes, was the orchestra sonically took a back seat to the quartet, something he assures Portlanders won't happen when he comes to town Friday, Nov. 13, to do a show with the Oregon Symphony Orchestra.

'We try to create light and shade and space for the orchestra to do their job,' Anderson says during a phone interview from Phoenix, Ariz., one of the stops on his current acoustic-flavored American tour of Tull music. Anderson notes the Portland show will be the only one on this tour featuring a local orchestra.

'They're certainly not there to be pretty faces,' he says. 'We want them to be heard.' Then he adds, mischievously: 'It may well be that some of them are pretty faces - but we're paying for musical expertise.'

Living in the Past

Anderson is on the road with bassist David Goodier, who's also played in Tull, as well as drummer Mark Mondasir, classical musician John O'Hara, who also plays keyboards and accordion with Tull, and German rock and flamenco guitarist Florian Opahle.

Anderson, whose voice and flute powered such hits as 'Aqualung,' 'Locomotive Breath' and 'Living in the Past,' says the Portland concert will explore both Tull hits and lesser known numbers, like 'March the Mad Scientist, as well songs that haven't been recorded yet.

'In a way I go back to the origins of those songs,' he says, noting many were written on acoustic guitar. 'I keep them in that more organic and acoustic form.'

He stresses, however, that this is no New Age concert during which you say nighty-night to your modern anxieties.

'It's certainly not John Denver with the flute,' Anderson says. 'It's more exciting than that. It's music that touches on the more sensitive and softer side of rock music.'

Skating Away

At an age when many classic rockers are content to coast by playing their decades-old hits note for note on the festival circuit, Anderson says he's aggressively challenging himself to expand his 'Indo-Celtic-Jazz-Fusion' palate.

At the same time, however, he's not above playing his old hits, just don't expect to hear them quite the same way, noting he can't understand why all musicians don't keep pushing themselves to do things differently every night on stage. As for those who don't?

'They should respectfully stay home and watch Letterman.'

Ian Anderson plays the Orchestral Jethro Tull, John O'Hara conducting, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Nov. 13, Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, 1037 S.W. Broadway St. Ticket prices $25 and up. Info: 503-228-1353 or www.orsymphony.org .


Editor's Note: The print version of this story that appeared Thursday, Nov. 12, listed the incorrect ticket prices. We apologize for the error.