Ian Anderson

The Sage, Gateshead

19 September 2011

People have the wrong preconceptions about prog rock these days. A lot of people think it's a Bad Thing that should have been killed off and buried decades ago. And that's a shame, because it leads to people like Jethro Tull's main man Ian Anderson claiming to be embarrassed by the label, which is clearly a ridiculous state of affairs.

The truth is, prog rock is not defined by how many thirty-minute songs you have, or how many different jazz chords and changing time signatures you can use. Prog rock should be about doing something different ("progressive", get it?). And this was certainly different.

So what do you need for a good prog rock gig?

You need to play a set full of rock songs without a drummer in your band.

You need to have an accordion. And a flute. The flute is essential, naturally.

One song needs to be a five-minute spoken-word monologue about a hare who has lost his spectacles.

You should include three pieces of music by J.S. Bach.

The guitar solo should preferably be a classical guitar sonata in the Spanish style.

Your singer should be a comedian with tons of jokes and funny anecdotes from his 40+ years on the road.

And obviously you should have three outstanding multi-instrumentalists on stage, each one a virtuoso in his own right.

Or, putting it another way, you need top-quality music played by top-quality musicians dedicated to entertaining their audience for two-and-a-half hours. And, honestly, no matter what style of music you listen to, how can that ever be a Bad Thing? Why should good entertainment ever go out of fashion?

In short, though Ian Anderson pretends to be embarrassed by the prog label, this was one of the most prog gigs I’ve ever seen. And therefore, not coincidentally, one of the best gigs I’ve ever seen.

I would go as far as saying I enjoyed this more than any of the "full band" Jethro Tull gigs I’ve seen.