Sunday, October 13, 2013

Bostock Takes Boston

Ian Anderson (Courtesy of Leighton Media)

Some people are just meant for the stage. 

At 66, Ian Anderson has reached the point in his life and career when many “Classic Rock” artists find themselves running on auto pilot and playing through the hits (and going through the motions) to fill seats in a concert venue. Fortunately, Anderson has chosen to follow a less-traveled – and infinitely more intriguing – path for his current solo tour.

Backed by a five-piece band, Anderson took to the stage at the Wang Theater in Boston on October 12 not with a set of hits from Aqualung (save for the “Locomotive Breath” encore), but with the goal of presenting 1972’s Thick As A Brick and its 2012 follow-up, Thick As A Brick 2 – Whatever Happened to Gerald Bostock? in their entirety. Yes, Anderson decided to take two of most challenging albums in his discography (for musicians and listeners) on the road, along with a visual presentation more akin to a play than a stereotypically bombastic Rock show.

And it was magnificent.

For nearly three hours, fans were treated to the tale of Gerald Bostock, Anderson’s fictional child character in the first Thick As A Brick who returned 40 years later as the middle-aged subject of Thick As A Brick 2. Despite the obvious limitations of a six-piece band, many of Thick As A Brick’s musical innovations and idiosyncrasies still shone through. While Anderson was clearly the centerpiece of the evening’s festivities, credit must be given to his exceptional support players - especially 31-year-old actor/singer Ryan O’Donnell, who handled many of Thick As A Brick’s higher vocal spots with impressive accuracy and found time to change into plenty of costumes throughout the evening to flesh out the music’s subject matter. The evening’s many highlights included a “live” Skype jam with violinist Anna Phoebe (Trans-Siberian Orchestra/Roxy Music) and an amusing video interlude with Anderson as “Colonel Archibald ‘Tufty’ Parritt” giving a tour of his home for “St. Cleve TV.” (Fans of the Brick/Bostock saga will surely get the in-joke with that one.) The music? Pristine from beginning to end. Thick As A Brick and Thick As A Brick 2 are certainly not everyone’s cup of tea, but those who were willing to take in both albums back to back at the Wang walked away with a reminder that live Rock music can be thrilling and highbrow. 

Left to Right: David Goodier, Scott Hammond, Ryan O'Donnell, Ian Anderson, John O'Hara, Florian Opahle (Photo courtesy of Leighton Media)

Costume changes, flute solos, an appearance by an accordion, a crossword puzzle in the tour program (!!), skits showcasing the driest of British humor and even a humorous (and effective) PSA on prostate cancer. Not exactly things that instantly scream out “ROCK SHOW,” but all things that make Anderson’s stage show one of the most fascinatingly eccentric productions currently on the road – and certainly something far more Rock ‘N’ Roll in spirit than the tired, paint-by-numbers nostalgia trips offered by many of his peers.

Spot-on, Tufty!

For more on the Thick As A Brick 1 & 2 tour, read my in-depth interview with Ian Anderson HERE.


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