By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch

Sept. 14, 1999

Jethro Tull, a gentleman farmer of Berkshire, invented the grain drill in 1701, and in 1731 published his "Horse-Hoeing Husbandry," which established row cultivation.

- Collier's Encyclopedia, 1968

Since 1968, the musical Jethro Tull has been cultivating strains of classical, Celtic folk, jazz and blues. But make no mistake about it: This is a rock 'n' roll band.

Flutist and whirling dervish Ian Anderson and his merry men proved that again Sunday night at soggy Riverport Amphitheater, mixing old and new in a muscular, musical and thoroughly charming show that came midway through the group's 28-city tour.

Rehearsed? Absolutely. Timed to the second? Pretty much. Sprinkled with humorous and at times forced patter? Well, sure, but to really mind you'd have to be one of those die-hard tour followers who complain on the Internet about Anderson telling the same jokes night after night.

Tull is on the road this summer behind "J-Tull Dot Com," the 25th studio album (yes, it's a Web site) in the band's 31 years and its first since 1995's "Roots to Branches."

Sunday's show was both a look back and forward. Several songs from the band's 1969 breakthrough album, "Stand Up," dominated the first half of the show, including "For a Thousand Mothers," "Nothing is Easy," "Jeffrey Goes to Leicester Square," "Fat Man" and "A New Day Yesterday."

These songs, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the album, provided a backdrop for the playful side of Tull. "Fat Man" was a mostly acoustic romp, with keyboardist Andrew Giddings and bassist Jonathan Noyce elbowing each other out of the way to play dueling percussion. And in the middle of "A New Day Yesterday," a giant hare - well, somebody in a big rabbit suit - wandered onstage, stopping to question Giddings and guitarist Martin Barre, before being directed to a pair of oversize spectacles. It was a wry reference to a character from 1971's "A Passion Play," and it brought a smile to veteran Tull concertgoers.

The new material from "Dot Com" suffered only in its lack of familiarity. "Spiral," "Nothing @ All," "Wicked Windows," "Dot Com" and "Hunt By Numbers" showcased the chops of this current Tull, which includes American drummer Doane Perry.

The musical treats included the jazzy "Serenade to a Cuckoo" from the band's 1968 debut, "This Was," dedicated to the late Roland Kirk and which Anderson said was the first song he learned to play on the flute. Equally fun was the instrumental "Bourree," based on J.S. Bach.

"Locomotive Breath" brought the crowd to its feet. That was followed by an encore of "Aqualung" - a shortened, inside-out version that began with Barre's classic solo - and "Living in the Past."

Opening the show was Vyktoria Pratt Keating of Sedona, Ariz., whose lovely voice, lively guitar and winsome stage chatter warmed up the audience.