Interviews — June 11, 2013 at 3:50 pm

An Evening with Ian Anderson


It’s been nearly 20 years since Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull has performed in Hong Kong. That last appearance at the Ko Shan Theater met with rave reviews as he sang a wide selection from the group’s 40 year career, including “Aqualung”, “Locomotive Breath” and more from a catalog that boasts more than 30 albums and 50 million record sales. A quick YouTube search shows that Anderson has lost none of that energy. At the age of 65, he’s possibly the only man in rock who can dramatically sing difficult self-penned lyrics one moment and play a series of intricate flute flourishes the next.

Ahead of his June 24th show (with a full band) that’s billed as “Ian Anderson Plays The Very Best of Jethro Tull”, I talked to Anderson at length while he was in Reykjavik, Iceland. Boasting a razor sharp, deadpan wit and a deep clear voice tailor-made for radio, the subjects ranged from the musical plans for the evening to salmon fishing (some of this interview was edited for the sake of clarity).

Scott Murphy: Let’s talk about the evening…what can fans and attendees expect?

Ian Anderson: What they can expect and what they get is not really entirely under my control. It depends on their perception of me, my music, my whole 44 year history of the  band and its offshoots, it’s 28 members…Some will think of us fondly as a blues band from the Marquee club in 1968. There are some who think of us as a metal act. Some think of us as a prog rock act…or dwell more on the acoustic aspects. The best I can do when putting together a best of tour is to try and pick up elements from the big picture. Examples will include the musical eras and the landmark songs from my perspective as a songwriter that resonate. It’s a series of slightly awkward series of compromises. You just have to give it your best shot. There is one huge responsibility–that is–to make me happy. I come way in front of the potential recipients. I’m doing this for me. That’s my very honest philosophy. That’s part of what makes for a believable show. I really want to be there and really want to do those songs. The audiences will then say ‘Okay, let’s see what he wants to offer…’ The worst thing you can do is do a lot of research and demographics. You become a service industry.  Ultimately in the world of arts and entertainment we should be more selfish and desire to honestly portray who we are and not be enslaved. That’s the long answer. I won’t be a mobile jukebox. But there’s not a huge gulf. On balance and from experience, I think we have fairly similar tastes. They’re going to hear a lot of mainstream heavy hitters. But clearly, you try to throw in a few curveballs too.

How much do you vary the set list when you’re on tour?

We have to rehearse and prepare, so we can put in and take out . We all have to do our homework. Everyone needs to know what’s happening next. I’m well-versed in the element of surprise. I will have a special guest in Hong Kong and I sent an email to the promoter saying ‘That’s the one’.

Tell me about the band you are touring with…

It’s the band I’m playing with all the time during the ‘Thick As A Brick’ production tour. I’m on the second year of it.  You’re talking to me in Iceland, then it’s Italy and Hong Kong, where we’ll be playing more of a generic best of. Then we go back to the Albert Hall, where the ‘Thick As A Brick’ production tour will continue.

What are your thoughts on Asia when you’re touring?

I suppose in the UK, we’ve grown up—my generation grew up–with a growing awareness of Asia from a mobile community who found their way into the UK from India, as well as China and other parts of Asia more recently. We’ve gotten used to it, primarily, most obviously, through the fast food variants of national cuisine. You have the absurdity in the UK of 10,000 Indian restaurants, though most are Bangladeshi. They’ve introduced the most popular dish in the UK. It is chicken tikka masala. We have become introduced to Asian elements through food, and to some extent through music. Chinese music and culture has spread far and wide. However, on the ground, we’ve been wary of visiting until recently. Things have become more flexible, in terms of getting in. There’s huge economic and cultural growth in Southeast Asia. We now recognize we have a trading partner to rival the capitalistic economies of the West. It remains to see if corruption follows on. Hopefully, being a more dynamic economy they’ll learn from some of the mistakes that we have made.

You played in Hong Kong almost exactly 20 years ago at the Ko Shan Theater in Kowloon. What are your memories of that gig, and what do you look forward to this time?

I probably just whizzed around, and I got the hell out of there–as indeed is the case this time. We arrive during various times of the day. We come before the show, play the show and leave the next day. I’m not paying for my band and crew to have a little holiday. We fly back from Rome via London via Hong Kong…and then I have the Royal Albert Hall in London. It’s an iconic building…and an iconic venue for performances of all sorts—even tennis events—people revere the Albert Hall as a piece of fine architecture, but don’t get me started on how it fares musically. If you look at the great Roman amphitheaters, they’re built using certain traditions of making something that sounds pretty good. You can hear every note… Some folks get it right, and some got it right 2,000 years ago. So that’s a bee in my bonnet. I’ve encountered the sublime and the obscenely horrible. I’m not sure where the Hong Kong venue will fit into all this, but we’ll do our best.


Ian Anderson will be performing a full concert in Hong Kong at the Asia-World Expo Hall 10 on Monday, June 24th at 8pm. Ticket prices range from $HK380-$980 and are available via HKTicketing and Tom Lee Music Outlets(Meet and Greet packages are available). For further details visit the website.

By Scott Murphy

An extended interview with Ian Anderson can be read here.


Scott Murphy is Head Writer at SIREN FILMS – a HK based independent production and creative house. Find him on Twitter: @scottkmurphy.



  1. […] Here’s an interview with Anderson in Music Weekly/Asia in which he discusses the upcoming Hong Kong show. […]