Jethro Tull and
Emerson Lake & Palmer
at the Star Pavilion, Hershey, PA
(29 August 1996)

Ian Anderson, gesturing wildly and stalking the stage through a cloud of red and green smoke, looked like nothing so much as a giant elf. Jethro Tull's frontman gave a larger-than-life performance at Hersheypark's Star Pavilion, overshadowing his bandmates with his virtuoso flute playing, throaty vocals and elfin antics.

Playing in front of an estimated crowd of over 5,000 -- largely made up of 30- and 40-year-olds -- Tull tapped into more than 2 1/2 decades of music under a full, blood-red moon.

Anderson, a master showman, played the crowd as deftly as his flute, which he wielded like a paintbrush as he filled the stage with lush sound. He dominated 90 minutes of old and new Tull numbers with his thick, trilling melodies and light, tripping airs. Crouching and lunging around the stage as he played, Anderson used the flute to punctuate songs with grunts, hums and heavy breathing. A slight limp was the only evidence of a torn ligament and blood clot in Anderson's leg that threatened earlier this year to keep him off his feet for good.

Tull concert showcased several new tunes from their recent album Roots to Branches, including "Dangerous Veils" and the anguished "Beside Myself." There were also lesser-known works from the band's early days, such as the 1970 ballad "Up the Pool," "Hunting Girl" and the powerful "My God." But the obvious crowd favorites were classic Tull hits like "Aqualung" and a pulse-pounding "Locomotive Breath."

Tull was preceded on stage by progressive rock trio Emerson Lake & Palmer. Uniform in black pants and vests, almost fading into the black background of the stage, the musicians were clearly taking a backseat to the music. But ELP provided a forceful reminder that rock can be done without an electric guitar. Kicking off with "Touch and Go" from the band's brief, mid-'80s stint with drummer Powell instead of Carl Palmer, ELP filled the first hour with classic numbers like "Knife-Edge," "Bitch's Crystal" and the soulful "From the Beginning."

Greg Lake, who occasionally traded his bass for an acoustic guitar, led the songs with strong, whiskey-smooth vocals. But the star of the show was the technical wizardry of Keith Emerson, arguably one of rock's top keyboard artists, who stormed through several frenetic, sometimes disharmonic instrumentals and provided a strong countermelody to Lake's singing.

The biggest crowd-pleaser during the ELP segment was a lengthyexcerpt from "Pictures at an Exhibition," which Lake and Palmer adapted from the work of classical Russian composer Petrovich Mussorgsky. Symphonic in scale, the powerful number led into ELP's best-known ballad, "Lucky Man." ELP concluded with "Fanfare for the Common Man." Palmer sent all four limbs into overdrive for a rousing drum solo, and Emerson rode a battered electric organ through a crashing medley of dissonance and classical themes. At one point, the keyboardist was pinned under his instrument, playing a Bach fugue upside down and backwards.

[ by Tom Knapp ]