Ian Anderson, who begins a solo concert tour tonight in Montreal, formed Jethro Tull in 1967, just a year after Led Zeppelin’s birth, but he shows no signs of leaving his rock and roll past behind him, just modifying it a bit.
Although Robert Plant recently told “The Independent” that he has moved far way from rock, Anderson is content with taking a few weeks break between the latest Tull tour and his current solo run which extends through November.
“Robert Plant’s great talent was he was quite a fiery, pyrotechnic vocalist with amazing range and clarity,” said Anderson noting the positive critical reviews Plant received during the 2007 Led Zeppelin reunion concert. “That’s very hard to keep up as you get older. Opera singers don’t manage it. Rock singers rarely fair any better. As a matter of fact, they often fair worse.”
The advantage Anderson said he has over some other vocalists – especially those that sing the work of master composers — is that he writes his own music and feels comfortable modifying it to suit his vocal needs.
“If I want to change the key to a song I’ll just do it. No one can tell me what I can and can’t do with my songs,” he said. “Those of us who write our own music have our own way of [modifying the songs], just as those in the world of jazz can do.”
In the upcoming solo concerts, Anderson will perform a few “deep catalog items” from Jethro Tull’s history, some of the band’s better known songs, and a smattering of newer songs that he has written.
Just a few weeks before the tour launch, Anderson was writing that new music and sending demos to the musicians who will join him on the road. Although he seems committed to some of the new songs – including one based on some Bach music – he is casual about what will be included in the set.
“I will have five or six new songs that I will explore…[and] whittle them down [for the tour] to probably two or three,” said Anderson. There’s a limit of the amount of new music you’re going to launch to even the most receptive audience.”
Although he jokes about his road warrior status, Anderson clearly still gets great joy from his music, likely because he can mix and modify the tunes he sings.
“I think you have the opportunity when you put behind elements of your earlier life and say ‘That’s it. It’s all over. Never again’ or perhaps you have the opportunity to say ‘Well, for now let me pursue other angles and maybe down the line we’ll get together again,” he said. “I’m sure that’s the way Robert thinks about it. I’m positive he wouldn’t want to go out and just be [part of] Led Zepplin again ‘til his dying days. I believe he quite fancies doing a tour here and a tour there and a couple shows here and there.”
Although Jimmy Page and other members have expressed the desire to perform more frequently as Led Zeppelin, Anderson can understand why that might pose a dilemma for any well-known singer.
“With the music I have done over the years, I am well aware some things are a whole lot harder for me to do than they were when I was younger…It’s a mixture of new tricks the old dog has to learn and old tricks that you try to perform but you have to cut a few corners,” he said. “But the point is Robert does what he does he enjoys doing what he’s doing and I think you have to respect somebody who can actually say no and mean no and that’s it. Good luck to him.