Name a British rock band famous for virtuoso musicianship; for playing classical pieces; and for numerous hit albums in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s.
O.K., name two.
Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake and Palmer, both of whom play The Gorge together tonight.
Martin Barre, the longtime guitarist of Jethro Tull, says that the pairing makes a natural fit.
“It’s been a good combination,” said Barre, by phone from San Diego where the bands had a concert date. “The two groups seem to share the same fan base and the reaction has been very good for both bands.”
That fan base would be: People who grew up with and loved the English progressive rock movement that began at the end of the 1960s.
In Jethro Tull’s case, the fan base also includes people who discovered the band through numerous albums in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Tull and front man Ian Anderson has a devoted, almost Dead-like cult following. Unlike most ‘60s bands, it has never ceased to put out new material and to be commercially viable.
The Gorge show, however, will concentrate on classic Tull.
“We do an hour-and-a-half segment and ELP does an hour, so really, there isn’t much time to do much other than the Tull hits,” said Barre. “Particularly with an outdoor crowd, there are not the hard-core concentration of Tull fans who would go for a quarter-hour of acoustic songs, or have the patience to listen to songs that they’re not that familiar with. Outdoor gigs are more of a festival crowd. ‘We want to hear the old hits, thank you very much.”’
Barre, who joined Anderson in 1968, doesn’t mind doing those old songs. As a dedicated musician, his main concern is playing them right.
“It’s pleasing to play well and annoying to make a mistake,” said Barre. “I’m a perfectionist. I’d like to be perfect, but perfection is probably something I’ll never experience.”
In fact, he can hardly stand to hear some of those old recordings.
“I cringe at some of the guitar solos,” said Barre. “But then you have to think, well, 25 years was a long time ago, and everybody played notes that weren’t quite in tune and weren’t quite in time, with that sort of nasty vibrato. You have to live and let live.”
Only one other avenue gets as much of Barre’s energy as his music: running. He is a dedicated runner and he was recently interviewed for a story in Runner’s World magazine.
“That’s one of things I’ve always wanted to do, so I was really pleased about that,” said Barre.
During this tour, the most exciting moment for Barre comes when he launches into “Outer Circle,” his own tune from his new solo album, “The Meeting.” Like many of the tunes on that album, it’s a high-powered instrumental with elements of classical music and jazz.
“The high point for me is that instrumental, only inasmuch as Ian is not there, and I really want it to be liked by the audience,” said Barre. “It’s a whole new avenue opening up there for me. Possibly, in the future, there might be a Tull set where I could do 20 minutes of my stuff.”
Barre has labored in the shadow of the flamboyant, flute-playing Anderson for a long time. However, Barre’s playing has been an important part of Jethro Tull’s success. When Tull launches into its greatest hits, you’ll hear Barre’s distinctive guitar riffs on such songs as “Aqualung” “Bungle in the Jungle,” and ‘Teacher.” You might even hear him on “Bouree,” Anderson’s adaptation of a Bach piece.
Speaking of classical music, Emerson, Lake and Palmer made a virtual career out of marrying classical music and rock. Keyboard virtuoso Keith Emerson, vocalist-bassist Greg Lake and drummer Carl Palmer blasted their way through everything from Tchaikovsky (“The Nutrocker”) to Aaron Copland (“Hoedown”) to Mussorgsky (the entire “Pictures at an Exhibition” suite.).
After one comeback attempt in 1986 with a new drummer (Emerson, Lake and Powell), Palmer returned in 1987.
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake and Palmer Location and time: The Gorge, tonight, 7 Tickets: $44.65-$28.90