A fine trip to Italy
Itullian Jethro Tull Convention 2001
Fidenza, Teatro Magnani, june 30, 2001
(a story by Laufi)

I hope you enjoy reading this diary-like review of a trip that is surely in the top 3 of all Tull events I ever attended.
All pics were taken by Albert Der, click them to see a larger version!
For your enjoyment I also installed some real audio files of the highlights:

Sweet Dream
(Souldrivers with Ian Anderson)
King Henry's Madrigal
(D. Palmer & Beggar's Farm with I.A.)
(D. Palmer & Beggar's Farm with I.A.)
(David Palmer & Beggar's Farm)
Locomotive Breath
(Jethro Tull with David Palmer & Aldo)
Thursday, june 28, 2001
Itullian Convention 2001 posterThe trip to Italy started for me very tired. Directly After work I travelled from Cologne to Worms to meet Ulla Hilger and start the journey to Italy. I reached Worms about midnight and after some talk and a coffee we started our trip through the night and the alps.
I managed to get some sleep in the car (which isn't very easy if you're a tall guy - 2,01 meters, that's 6 foot 7,5 inches!), this meant that I didn't see the sunrise (which was beautiful as Ulla said), but anyway, I was awaken enough to drive myself the last few hundred kilometers from the italian frontier. We didn't have any traffic jams (we really expected some, as the holidays just started in some parts of Germany), so we reached Fidenza early at about 9.00 o'clock.

Friday, june 29, 2001
Aldo -the Itullian organizer of the convention- booked a fine hotel for us, it wasn't too expensive and -the most important fact- so big that my bed was very far away from Ulla's. Not that I'm afraid of any sexual attacks (she's catholic!), but she's simply the loudest snoring person in the world! Ok, maybe the second loudest after ... Dr. Michael Nauber. Once, in Gravesend 1996, Dietmar and me had some incredible experiences with this ... This just reminds me that Dave Rees must be even louder - the champion in snoring his neighbours to deafness, but anyway ... let's continue with more important facts!

Ulla took some sleep while I had some breakfast and a walk around. The coffee in Italy is simply perfect, so I took several oppurtunities to satisfy this addiction ...
The weather was beautiful, a sunny sky with no clouds and about 35°C already in the morning. Good that every building in Italy has an air condition it seems.
I found the Teatro Magnani, it was only 300 m from the hotel - perfect!
I took some sleep myself before we met some other conventioneers in the afternoon. Other friends from Germany, Luxemburg (yes, the land of instant beer!) and the Netherlands arrived and even the "A New Day" team (Dave Rees, his brother and Keith The Jacket) found the way to Fidenza without any accidents or broken car keys!
It was time to have some beers and to have some extensive chat, mostly about the recent concerts in Germany and europe. The first pub we visited ran out of Becks beer and Guiness soon so we had to move to the next one. Needless to say that after two hours or so they also ran out of our favourite booze ... at least they made some good money having us as their guests, but it could have been more, guys!
We also met Aldo who showed us the convention place, a beautiful old theatre from 18th century. If I can trust my italian, Giuseppe Verdi had the premiere of his "Troubador" at this theatre in 1861. A beautiful place and surely one of the most beautiful places that Tull ever played, but more of that later. 
We arranged a meeting with Aldo for diner at the restaurant in our hotel later in the evening.

When we arrived there we recognized that it seemed that Aldo already prepared something special for us: a table was booked only for us and there was also a one-man-band ready to play just for us! Usually I don't like such entertainers, but he did a good job in playing a lot of progressive music from the seventies and he had a good voice too. Maybe the best pizza I ever eat and surely a fine tap beer they got there - I didn't thought that I would be able to drink italian beer!

This evening was very entertaining, as there were some other Tullies from all over the world. Very nice to meet the isralis around Gidi that I know "virtually" for a long time. Gidi is a blind fan from Israel, some of you may have been reading some of his kryptic messages in the newsgroups ;-)) He's a very nice guy and entertained us with a lot of jokes. My favourite was when he told me that he once met Art Garfunkel and asked him if he could drive him home . "Sorry, Stevie Wonder is already my driver" Art answered, *lol*!

Just for historical reasons I have to notice that the last part of the evening turned out to be a drinking battle England vs. Germany. I would say it went equal, but due to the fact that Dave Rees slept until 2 in the afternoon the next day while I was up at ten -looking really pretty, of course!- the referee declared me being the winner by points. 
And we discussed it, this is the same result as the big football match in september, Dave!

Saturday, june 30, 2001
The convention day started with Ulla trying to wake me up at 7.30! She really is a bastard, as a teacher she wakes up at this time everyday, even in her holidays. "If I'm awaken, everybody has to wake up" is one of her guidelines - I succesfully broke this rule and slept until about ten.
The breakfast took about 5 hours in a pub and satisfied one more time my addiction to this lecker italian coffee. The pretty little italian waitress was afraid that I might die by a heart attack after ordering the 4th or 5th one, I think ...

breakfast after the drinking battle
Laufi and Ulla
these losers lost the battle!
the "New Day" team
these losers lost the battle!
nearly awaken!
Dave's brother & Laufi
Anyway, a lot of chat with the other Tullies about what might happen later that day until ... 16.00 when the thing finally started:

The beginning
The stalls were outside the theatre, were also a stage was found. To get the theater from the community, I think, the organisers had to do something for the local public, which they did with a concert outside the theatre with a lot of local bands. There were some really good ones in every kind of musical style and they all had to play at least one Tull song. This was sometimes really funny, even the techno DJ that played had a Tull song in his set. Pretty sure that nearly none of the Tullies liked it, but at least it was well done!
It was too hot to stay in front of the stage to listen to the music, so everybody (incl. half of the population of Fidenza, I think) looked for a place at the side in the shadow.

chatting and ...
Gimme the blues !
... beautiful girls!?
Clive with Solstice
The stalls ...
... were vell visted!
Gimme the blues !
Clive with Solstice
a local band
The action outside the theatre was a good possibility to talk to other Tullies, I even met some italian guys I'm in contact with for several years. There were also a lot of stalls with fine collectibles and it was the premiere of Dave Rees' book "Minstrels In The Gallery" in german language which Ulla and me carried from Germany to Italy to sell it to ... german people!

Doors open!
The doors opened about 30 minutes late due to a longer soundcheck, which was no big problem. It seemed to be a problem to get into the theatre quickly (luckily the seats were numbered), as the audience was checked by policemen in uniform with pistols, etc.! This looked very strange and I don't know if this is normal in Italy, but anyway, I later found out that they only looked dangerous, but were really friendly as the whole staff of the theatre was!
As I wrote earlier, this it's a beautiful place; an old theatre with 4 rows of balconies and also places on the floor. I managed to get a place in a balcony in the middle which was a place with the perfect sound to ... listen to the concert ;-)

The beautiful Teatro Magnani
the theatre
Excellent! A fine place ...
Laufi at the balcony
The roof ...
The roof
The red curtion in front of the stage
red curtain
People take their seats on the floor
taking the seats
The music started early with the first support act, a kind of acoustic duo. To be honest, I didn't listen to them very much, as I had to have a short visit to the bar before the real action. But what I heard was fine.

The "official opening" of the concert part of the convention was very unspectacular with every main attraction already on stage: Aldo, the whole Jethro Tull Line-Up, Clive Bunker and David Palmer.
They got standing ovations by an enthusiastic audience and then chose three happy people for the finale when they had to be Jethro Tull's lead singers in "Locomotive Breath"! More of that later.

Next was the raffle. I bought ten coupons for the lottery and as far as I understood they had prices like signed CDs, T-Shirts, posters, etc. I'm pretty sure that I won the best prices, but I simply didn't recognize it, as they read all the numbers in italian! Damn!!!
Aldo announced that the next band would be on stage in about 10 minutes, which gave me the opportunity for a cigarette and a beer in the foyer ...
The "Souldrivers"
To be honest, I'm not very much into Jethro Tull cover bands and I don't have the "Songs for Jethro" CD (yet) that was recorded at the Itullian Convention last year. The only thing I knew about the "Souldrivers" is that it was Ian Anderson's wish to play a song with them.
They started with "Love Story" and ... I was blown away! THAT's what I like to hear from a cover band, they played their real own version in a grunge/alternative style with a fine singer that had a remarkable voice. For the next song, "Sweet Dream", Ian was announced by the singer. They did a brilliant performance of this song and even if Ian was in the wrong key with the flute at one part - this was excellent!
Ian fit perfect in the line-up wearing a grungy hat on stage :-) He seemed to enjoy the gig and got an extra applause when he started to sing. The very only low point of the "Souldrivers" was that they only played 2 songs! It would have been great to get some more of their interpretations of Tull music.

David Palmer & Beggar's Farm
As a youngster, the first time I met David Palmer was at the UK Convention in Gravesend back in 1996. It's a bit strange, I think what he offered then had everything from lousy to excellent. Especially his voice is sometimes hard to listen to, on the other side, often it's very interesting and amusing!
I had no clue about "Beggar's Farm", as I'm not much into these Tull cover bands, but I was really surpirsed that they are bloody brilliant musicians!
They started with "No Lullaby" as an intro for David Palmer entering the stage. David sang and played the first verse of "Wind-Up" alone, then the whole band played "The Whistler". The sound was ok, but far from being perfect, which luckily changed through the set and later the soundman did find the right balance.
"The Third Hoorah" was fine, as was "Taxi Grab". Very funny the interlude when David Palmer's monitorbox didn't work: "we need a new wedge here, quick, quick!" Then he played some piano ...

The next song was "Cathedral", I didn't understand the introduction, as David spoke italian, but this is a "Tallis" song, the band he had together with John Evans. A nice one, at least!
"Moths" was followed by a real bummer, a beautiful rendition of "Coronach"! Fine playing and great to hear that song, I just wish Ian would have been on stage for this one.
The next song David announced being recorded on july 1st 1974 in London. Knowing it,  because "he was there", they played "Rainbow Blues". They had to stop after the intro, as parts of the band were out of time, which was no big accident, they played the second part very well.
The next three songs were the highlight of the "Beggar's Farm" set for me: Ian appeared on stage to play "King Henry's Madrigal", what a surprise! Not only because Ian played with the band, but also because the band played it absolutely brilliant! Also it was the first time I saw that Ian accepted a second flute on stage - the "Beggar's Farm" singer played a big alto flute. I expected "Elegy", it was the highlight in Gravesend 1996 when Ian and David played it together and so they did here. Simply a beautiful piece of music!
Now it went sensational ... again the next song was introduced in italian, but I did understand that David spoke about an unreleased Tull song from the "Stormwatch" era named "Apocalypse". Well, what should I say? A FANTASTIC song with various time and rhythm changes, great flute work, a fine isntrumental part and catchy hook lines. This is already one of my favourites! PLEASE, Ian, if you ever go through your archives and find this one - release it or re-record it, it's a great piece of music!
I wonder what unreleased or unrecorded Tull songs are in the vaults. I know that David Palmer found notes of a 1976 song named "6 O'Clock News". And he thinks that it's one of the ten best Tull songs ever!
After these three highlights in a row, David Palmer left the stage and Clive Bunker took the drum seat!
The singing was done by the regular "Beggar's Farm" singer who did a great job on flute, btw. His singing is ok, sometimes the italian accent is strange to listen to.
Clive played driving drums in "Cross-Eyed Mary", "A Song For Jeffrey" and "To Cry You A Song", all very close to the original arrangements. Then "Beggar's Farm" had a big finale when they played "Nothing Is Easy" and Clive had a spot with a drum solo. But not only that he played a simple solo ... Doane Perry entered the second drum set and they did a drum battle! Great to hear these two excellent drummers demonstrating what they're able to play. And very nice if you know the background that Doane Perry -the current drummer in jethro Tull- once had a drum lesson by Clive Bunker -when he was the drummer in jethro Tull! They also shared the drums for the last song in the set, "Aqualung", which was the only -very small- low point of an entertaining concert, a bit too fast and ... well, the guitar player was absolutely excellent, but this one needed a guest appearance of Martin Barre for the solo ;-)

Jethro Tull
Well, this was the third Jethro Tull Convention that had the whole band officially on the bill. The first one was in the U.S. in 1997, which was very entertaining (I wasn't there, but got a lot of reviews). The second one was back in 1998 in Bedburg-Hau, for the German Convention 1998. In my opinion, a convention is that friends and fans meet and chat, have some drinks and a nice day. I enjoy such events even without any of the band members (past or present) being there. If they appear it has to be seen as a bonus, but it shouldn't be the focus. The thing that went wrong in 1998 was that we simply got a "normal" concert by a band that lost his good mood through the evening. Whatever the circumstances for this may have been -I only know rumours about it-  I would have liked it more as a convention without the band, at least without them playing just a normal concert - more or less (read my review elsewhere on this site).
Anyway, we were promised a special set in Fidenza, as Ian announced this at the official website. And it had to be special if it was only through the fact that Tull played with completely borrowed equipment!
Ian said at the openning of the convention that "this is just a night off and we like to have a good time with some good friends". They must have some good friends in Italy!

Ian started alone, playing "The Secret Language Of Birds" with his "band-in-a-box", a CD player. I liked his appearances at several promo and radio gigs in this kind, but don't see the sense in doing this when the whole band is available (and they should know this song, as they already played it live in 1999). Thinking about it, it was a good soundcheck for the unknown monitor and P.A., also I think there was no Hohner Akkordeon available, so it's accepted :-)
Ian announced Martin and they started "Someday The Sun Won't Shine For You Anymore" in which later for the second part the whole band appeared on stage.
The sound was fine for the fact that they had to play with semi-professional and borrowed equipment, the "Beggar's Farm" gig was a good check to find the balance and the great sound of the theatre did the rest - very enjoyable sound!

The next song was a nice surprise, as they found "Jack-In-The-Green" in the vaults, fine singing by Ian! I wish that Tull plays more such pearls in their regular concerts, too!
"A New Day Yesterday" was played in the recent arrangement with the "Kelpie" instrumental part, but it was disturbed by some very ugly and loud distortion noises! I located them coming from the keyboards, luckily the technicians found the reason very quickly during the song.

Now Ian announced Clive Bunker who took the drum seat again and did a premiere, as he played "My Sunday Feeling" for the very first time! You might wonder, as he played it on the record, but Clive said that he never played it live with the band until this gig (and the soundcheck in the afternoon). Of course he also played "Bourée", because "Doane Perry was about to give birth to an alien love child"!

"And now something that doesn't very often happen is gonna happen tonight and I want you to be very quite and listen carefully to what is going to be said by Martin Lancelot Barre!", Ian announced and Martin told us a story: "This is a sad story. I once had a cat who's name was "Morris". He was a happy cat, so I cut his balls off ... and we had to rename him "Morris Minus". Morris had his revenge a few years later, when my wife made me have the same operation. So I dedicate this to the two of us, thank you!". Of course they played the fine "Morris Minus", which reminded me how great Martin's solo material is. Let's hope the best for the third album and a tour!

Next was the new "untitled instrumental jig" that was already played at some of the recent concerts. It was the first time that I heard it, it's a nice piece in two parts, one of them sounds a bit like "Mayhem Maybe". Good music, but It doesn't sound finished yet!
"With You There To Help Me" had a big surprise - at least for Ian, as he didn't knew that Clive Bunker would help out on drums again! Powerful playing and a great voice. I think it's always the same, if I hear Ian singing in intimate places like the recordings for the dutch "2 Meter Sessies" 2 years ago or in small clubs, I recognize that he still has a fine voice. The problems don't appear at such events, only at the big concerts.
The finale of the Tull set was a bummer again! Not because of the music they played, but because of the line-up. As I wrote earlier, three happy (or unhappy?) volunteers were chosen to sing "Locomotive Breath". Tull played the song without the piano intro and it was good fun for all parts, the volunteers were happy to be on stage with their favourite band, the band and the audience had some very good laughs! And the singers" weren't THAT bad, really ;-) My suggestion was to do a eurovision song contest between England and Germany and let Dave Rees and Ulla Hilger sing ... even if someone shouted "let Dave Rees sing" (don't know who that was!), they didn't hear what I was yelling  and Dave Rees wasn't asked being onstage ;-) THAT would have been fun!
Clive Bunker was also on stage again.
Well, I thought it was over, but it wasn't. Jethro Tull showed that they are able to do some improvisation. Ian wanted to thank Aldo, the organiser and he also asked David Palmer coming on stage. Then, I think, something in his mind did "click" and they played a reprise of "Locomotive Breath", and what a reprise! Aldo told Ian a few weeks ago that he plays a little bass guitar, so he was in doing the job (Jon showed him the chords before they started). I'm pretty sure that this was one of the best moments in his life, he looked proud and happy. I have to say that his appearance was a fine gesture showing him the respect for organising such a great event!
David Palmer was asked by Ian to play the piano intro "where he said oh shit, that's fucking awful!" and so he did. He started it like we all know it and then just played crazy stuff! So the whole band went into a spooky-jazzy atmosphere and was just jamming around the chords. I just thought how they would get out of this stuff, when ... Ian started to sing in this crazy style the most famous song of our favourite band! But it went more crazy when David Palmer sang the second verse like .... eh ... well, like a gay hairstylist! Damn, this was brilliant fun and -really- I had problems to hold my pee and not to laugh out loud (I had to be quite because of ... eh ... the other people in my balcony, you know ;-))
Well, not easy to explain this "stunt version" of "Locomotive Breath", so listen to the real audio file, enjoy!
The curtain was closed, but the crowd was shouting and singing for minutes, even when James Taylor music was played over the P.A. What a great enthusiastic atmosphere! They only stopped after Aldo came back on stage and gave a sign that there would be no more encores.

Well, that was the end of a Jethro Tull Convention that surely already has his place in the fans history books. You might say that -except for the surprises with The "Souldrivers" and "Beggar's Farm"- the Jethro Tull set had not that much specials in it, but I think it was a very special gig. Not only that Tull played the days before and after the convention shows in Germany, so they took the pain of long travels just "to be with some friends". They played with borrowed equipment and the most important thing is: everybody saw that they had fun and they simply liked it! 
I've got no idea how to top this convention at future events, except for the re-union of the first line-up - let's hope that it will happen one day!

We had some party later the evening and -of course- chatted with other Tullies about what happened. A lot of friendships were made and everybody surely had one (or even more wonderful day(s).
Ulla is still in Italy for holidays, while I had to do a thirteen hours travel back on sunday to be in the TV studio for a job on monday. Anyway, I had so much impressions in my head that this couldn't bother me and I had my copy of Dave Rees' book, which perfectly fit half of the journey :-)

Let's say some "thank you's", the biggest one goes to Aldo and his team, you all did a perfect job and treated the guests from Italy and all over the world with such a loveliness. You put a perfect event together, Aldo, your da man! Let's have some pints in Cropredy :-)
Thanks also to all the nice people from Italy, Israel, Greece, England, Netherlands, etc, it was nice to meet you all. And a big thank you to Albert for these great pics, he was the only one who was allowed to stay on the floor near the stage during the show ;-)


(rainy Cologne, july 15, 2001)