Even though they have been one of my favorite bands for many years, I didn't have very high expectations of Living with the Past, their latest live album. Their 1999 studio album, Dot.com, hadn't exactly set me on fire, and the last concert I'd been to had been, frankly, a bit on the dull side. Well, I must have caught them on an off night, because this live album, the bulk of which was recorded just a few months later, features the Tull I've loved all those years: a tight, dynamic rock group delivering classy songs with great instrumental skill and passion. Sure, singer Ian Anderson's voice is the worse for wear, but on this record, he really makes the most of what he's got, and on those long-standing live staples that he is the most confident with, songs like Aqualung and Locomotive Breath, he overcomes his limitations, helped by the vibes from his audience (I've observed this phenomenon in concert as well). Martin Barre's guitar is outstanding (as always, only more so) and for the first time in their history, they've managed to create a live CD with decent production value. Feel the power!
The tracklisting includes those classic songs that they just have to play, but also some lesser-known chestnuts such as Roots to Branches from "long before September 11", as Ian Anderson puts it, and Jack in the Green, from 1977's pastoral Songs from the Wood album. Most of the material is drawn from a concert in London in Novermber 2001, but it has been fleshed out with additional material such as a few acoustic sessions (including sterling recordings of Life's a Long Song and Wond'ring Aloud with a string quartet, and three tracks from a long-unavailable 1989 radio session. The DVD edition has a slightly different track selection. Since I don't have a DVD player, I can't comment on that.
This is a backdated entry from before this weblog was started. It was originally posted on rocr.net. Since posting the review, I have got a DVD player and the DVD. I can't say I like the DVD as much as I like the CD - there is far too much post-production on the DVD. In their attempts to make it more than just a live registration, Ian Anderson and the DVD's producers have managed to make it far less. It's worth having for "Budapest" though.