DVD & Blu-ray Reviews

Jethro Tull, Live At Montreux 2003, Blu-ray (2008)

This excellent disc is maybe my favorite live concert recording of the last few years.

Published on October 1, 2008

Jethro Tull, Live At Montreux 2003, Blu-ray (2008)
Jethro Tull, Live At Montreux 2003, Blu-ray (2008)

Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment EVBRD 33318-9
Video: 1.78:1 widescreen 1080p HD
Audio: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, English DD 5.1, LPCM Stereo
Subtitles: None
Length: 117 minutes
Rating: ****

Although I’ve always been a huge fan of Jethro Tull’s music through the years, I haven’t seen them in concert in about thirty years. With the constant changes to the band’s lineup, and with my ever-changing musical tastes, I’ve pretty much tended to only listen to a handful of their classic albums like Benefit, Stand Up and Aqualung with any real regularity. And then there was that flak the band received when they won the Grammy award in 1989 for the best heavy metal song – now really, Jethro Tull, heavy metal? Like most other dinosaur groups, I pretty much wrote the current incarnation of the band off, even though they’ve remained a continuously touring act for the last forty years. So needless to say, I didn’t really expect much from this new Blu-ray disc of their 2003 performance at Montreux. Well, surprise – this excellent disc is maybe my favorite live concert recording of the last few years, and the group simply shines with every succeeding number!

The set list is a hodge-podge of newer songs, older, less frequently played chestnuts (“Life Is A Long Song” is particularly outstanding) and classic tracks from their golden period in the early seventies. The set also contains a number of instrumentals, and all the players are given ample time to stretch out on their respective instruments. The perennial classic “Bouree” is given a much more chamber-like and classically influenced intro, then slowly slides into the jazzy groove that’s always made the tune so delectable. Ian Anderson, consummate showman that he is, introduces the tune as “the worst, Holiday-Inn-lounge-jazz imaginable!” Also in the classically-influenced jazzy groove is a fabulous version of Faure’s “Pavane,” and guitarist par excellence Martin Barre displays some remarkable acoustic flatpicking on “Empty Café.” One of my favorite moments on the entire disc was their jazzily cool version of “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen,” in which Martin “Lancelot” Barre channels some really cool Wes Montgomery influences and just about brought the house down! And to prove that they’re no mere group of dinosaurs, the remarkably updated versions of classic tracks like “Living In The Past,” “Fat Man” and “Nothing Is Easy” showed me that these guys can still really play, and even the newer members of the group offered astonishingly good contributions to the goings on. The disc closes with searing versions of “Aqualung” and “Locomotive Breath,” and it’s obvious from the faces of all the players that they were in fact having a complete blast, and not merely going through the motions!

The video quality is nothing short of superb – this is the kind of show that just begs for a really great hi-res video offering, and no one will be disappointed with the incredibly crisp and detailed image presented here. The DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track is also incredible, and really helps to immerse the listener within the Montreux soundfield. If I had any quibble at all with the sound, it would be that the bass was a bit lacking; at one point during the show, I actually got up to check my subwoofer, and – surprise – it was off! However, switching it back on didn’t really significantly rectify the situation, and even attempting to increase the bass level only proved marginally satisfying. I don’t want to create the wrong impression – I just personally would have preferred a touch more bass response.

For fans and newcomers alike, this disc is incredibly entertaining, and I was virtually glued to my seat for the nearly two-hour runtime. There’s nothing in the way of extras here, but hey – it’s all about the performance, and these guys don’t disappoint. Now I’m just really bummed that I let all this time go by and paid very little attention to anything other than the classic incarnation of the group. Oh well, live and learn! Very highly recommended!

TrackList: Some Day The Sun Won’t Shine For You; Life Is A Long Song; Bourée (Version de Noël); With You There To Help Me; Pavane; Empty Café; Hunting Girl; Eurology; Dot Com; God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen; Fat Man; Living In The Past; Nothing Is Easy; Beside Myself; My God; Budapest; New Jig; Aqualung; Locomotive Breath.

— Tom Gibbs 

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