The "party pooping" Anderson has claimed he's not one for nostalgia and still churns out the occasional new album like 2014's cranky Homo Erraticus and 2017's The String Quartets. Yet, he opted to concentrate on the first, most successful decade of the band's work — that eclectic mishmash of blues (like the evening's early bird special "My Sunday Feeling" and "New Day Yesterday"), crunchy rock riffage (show-closing "Locomotive Breath" scorched by guitarist Florian Opahle) and several representations of back-to-our-agrarian-roots English folk ("Heavy Horses," "Songs From the Wood," "Farm on the Freeway") that have been key to the band since they named themselves after the inventor of the automatic seed-planting machine.
Less represented were other branches of the Tull tree of life like classical and jazz, though of course they had to do the essential mash-up of Johann Sebastian Bach and Rahsaan Roland Kirk that is "Bouree." Also given short shrift were those East Asian flavors that Anderson likes to play. I was really craving a taste of the raga-beat "Fat Man," likewise "Nothing is Easy" and "Living the Past."
Always a great showman, Ian Anderson upped the ante of his once-innovative "Tullavision," a closed-circuit video system this time with a well-synchronized and artful rear projection display that let the band play along with youthful versions of themselves and their predecessors, as well as with ringers like Icelandic singer-fiddler Unnur Birna Björnsdóttir and actor/musician Ryan O'Donnell — who hit all the high notes on "Aqualung," now beyond Anderson's reach. The front man also had keyboardist John O'Hara and bass player David Goodier handle some of the high harmony notes, on songs the studio-obsessive Anderson originally overdubbed himself. But Anderson's odd (for rock) baritone voice is so distinctive he can't really have others sing in unison with him as cover-ups, he recently shared in a chat, as contemporaries like Brian Wilson, Billy Joel, and Paul McCartney often do.
Happily, the Tull-acaster is blowing his flute and harmonica with as much strength and skill as ever, which helps explain why instrumentals played such a big (maybe exaggerated) part of the anniversary play list — from "Dharma for One" (with a big drum solo by Scott Hammond ) to a left-field "medieval folk rock" entry credited to King Henry VIII.
Also dressing up the video screen and adding to the festive celebration were invited band alumni (Jeffrey Hammond-Hammond, Mick Abrahams, John Evans) and noted fans (like Joe Bonamassa and Black Sabbath's Tony Iommi) to introduce their favorite Tull tunes.