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Ian Anderson takes patter to a new level

October 01, 2003|Ernesto Lechner | Special to The Times

Anybody who has seen Jethro Tull in concert knows the venerable British group has a frustrated stand-up comedian in leading man Ian Anderson.

Through the years, the singer-songwriter-flutist's notoriously crass onstage behavior and extended storytelling sessions have provided eccentric counterpoint to the group's flavorful fusion of heavyish classic rock and lilting Celtic folk.

A mixture of unplugged concert and imaginary radio show, Anderson's latest solo tour -- which stopped at the Ford Amphitheatre on Monday -- attempts to take the singer's narrative talents a step further.

Titled "Rubbing Elbows," the show is moderated by a different radio personality in each stop (in this case, KLOS-FM's Jim Ladd) and includes Q&A sessions with the crowd, appearances by surprise musical guests and plenty of opportunities for Anderson to indulge in his fixation with jokes about the male anatomy.

When he wasn't shocking the audience (and, most notably, a visibly flustered Ladd) with his barrage of increasingly racy innuendo, Anderson performed a handful of semi-acoustic tunes, backed by a younger -- and somewhat under-rehearsed -- band.

Anderson deserves credit for wanting to disrupt the status quo of the standard concert format. But after a while, the forced jokes and insipid questions had you pining for more of Anderson's better-known achievement -- namely, his music.

Time has been surprisingly kind to the Tull repertoire, particularly those songs that draw heavily from traditional English idioms. Performed early in the evening, the bewitching "Life Is a Long Song" was a stunning reminder of Anderson's ability to place his Dionysian persona aside and conjure up moments of deeply affecting beauty.

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