Jethro Tull Plays The Palace

By Paul Moffett

Guitarist Martin Barre has been a part of Jethro Tull almost as long as Ian Anderson. That's some thirty years and nearly as many records but the urge to play remains strong, Barre said in a recent telephone interview.

"We like to do gigs. We like to be away working." he said. "This was a year off, [but] we got some offers to tour America, some nice, short tours. They're high energy. They're fun to do, so we're not banging our heels on gig number 53 or something like that."

Jethro Tull's Louisville show for will be at the Palace Theater. Barre, who described himself as an "instant tourist" when on tour, indicated that the size of the Palace was just right for Tull.

"We used to do a huge production show in the Seventies -- smoke machines and flashpots and costumes -- it was the bee's knees, but we couldn't compete. Now it's so basic. We've got lights and very basic staging, but we're not taking anything away from the audience. We're not hiding anything, because all we can do is play music, no gimmicks."

"We don't really have a choice, but, luckily, it's a good choice."

After thirty years, the band has the mechanics of touring in hand, Barre noted.

"We play a hell of a lot of gigs and stay in Econolodges. We take taxis and don't have a lot of crew. It's all very businesslike. We do comfortably enough, we do it sensibly, so we end up making money."

Jethro Tull audiences are now a mixture of ages, often with parents bringing their kids to concerts. Barre said that when the band plays new songs, the fans are polite but then they want to hear the older, familiar songs. He admitted that while he himself listens to new material because he wants to stay "open to new stuff," the records in his bag are "like, Jackson Browne and Sting, about fifteen or so years old."

Still, "I just love to play," Barre insisted. His other band, The Martin Barre Band, recently finished a tour of German blues clubs, promoting a solo album. The German venues pay enough to make a tour worth doing, unlike in America, where lots of band will play for free.

While their record label, EMI, has been consistently behind them, Barre expressed concern that the music industry was being reduced to just a few mega-firms:

"We're on the verge of [all the record companies] being huge conglomerates and it'll be hard on bands like us. All the gigs will be handled by just a few companies, like Sony USA."

As for the "tourist" part of touring, "I'm a maniac runner, sort of any instant tourist. I hate hotels, I hate taxis, I hate aeroplanes. I get to a hotel and into my running gear and off around the town. I see as much of a town in an hour as most tourists see in a couple of days."

"We might be in our fifties, sort of limping, with not a lot of hair on top, but inside there's a lot of energy. We love it as much as we ever loved it."

Asked it the band hung around after a show to sign autographs, he laughed.

"Oh, yeah, it's never a hassle with the people, they're always nice. They're never there for any other reason. They genuinely like you, they like the music. You never get the weird fans who think you might have drugs for sale or groupies hanging around.

"They're genuinely friendly people. Some people tell you what they think of you. Sometimes it's nice and sometimes it's brutally honestly honest. You have to take the good with the bad."

Martin Barre, Ian Anderson and the rest of Jethro Tull will play the Palace Theater on September 29. Tickets are available through the Palace or Ticketmaster.