Jethro Tull takes on Jethro Tull!
The iconic flute-rocker behind Jethro Tull will perform a rock opera about the band’s historic namesake at the Kings Theatre on Nov. 6. But this prog-rock piece is not living in the past, said the band’s frontman, who has re-written the facts with a futuristic twist.
“I think you have to be prepared to take a little respectful creative latitude with the subject matter and not just slavishly copy it or, in a pedantic way, parade the facts,” said Ian Anderson. The singer, flautist, and mandolin-player will perform “Jethro Tull, the Rock Opera” along with the other band members on Friday.
The show recasts eighteenth-century agriculturalist Jethro Tull as a near-future biochemist working to solve a famine by genetically engineering more-productive crops. The band has released 30 albums under the inventor’s name for decades, but Anderson said his fascination with the proto-Tull is a very recent turn-around — in fact, for years he avoided learning anything about the man behind the farm equipment.
“Since February of 1968, when our agent gave us the name Jethro Tull, I’d always been embarrassed to be named after a dead guy who invented the seed drill,” he said.
But when the revered rocker took a trip to France and Italy, he began pondering the region’s agricultural methods, which led him to research the band’s musical moniker. Anderson had more in common with the original Tull than he had suspected, and he found common themes between the Tull’s life and Tull songs like “Aqualung” and “Songs from the Wood.” The musician incorporated the prog-rock classics into a rock opera about the inventor, along with a handful of tunes he wrote just for the show.
The show’s aesthetic also has a futuristic edge that complements the imaginative tale — guest musicians who helped score the show appear on a screen behind the band, performing in costume and playing recorded tunes alongside the live band. Anderson says that fans can enjoy the show as a straight-up Jethro Tull concert, but he hopes that the story, sci-fi imagery, and new music will provide an extra dimension for audiences looking for something more.
“I can give them a lot more in the way of visual interest and detail, should they be interested enough to absorb that from the show,” he said.
“Jethro Tull the Rock Opera” at the Kings Theatre [1027 Flatbush Ave. between Tilden Avenue and Duryea Place in Flatbush, (718) 856–5464, www.kings