Ian Anderson and Jethro Tull. Courtesy photo

Jethro Tull founder, frontman and flautist Ian Anderson is in the U.K. finishing up rehearsals and packing to hit the road again. The British band is extending their 50th anniversary tour from 2018 — hitting places they were unable to visit last year. This includes stops in the U.S., among them San Diego Civic Theatre on July 7 at 8 p.m.

“The 50th anniversary tour is unashamedly nostalgic — covering the first 15 years of Jethro Tull and capturing the spirit of the times,” Anderson says by phone. “We try to keep it entertaining and interesting,” he adds, describing how the nearly two-hour show also features surprise video introductions to many of the band’s popular songs, as well as some rare gems that longtime fans should appreciate. Well, sort of.

“I’m not sure you’d call them rare gems or just stuff they never got around to listening to before,” Anderson quips, displaying a dry wit that surfaced several times during the call.

Jethro Tull — named after the 18th century English agricultural pioneer who invented the seed drill — got their start in February 1968, playing at the world-famous Marquee Club in London. They toured North America for the first time in 1969; so, technically, it’s still the 50th anniversary for those of us on this side of The Pond. Jethro Tull ultimately became one of the most enduring bands of their time, releasing 30 albums (notably “Aqualung” and “Thick As A Brick”) and selling more than 60 million copies worldwide.

One could argue that much of Tull’s fame can be attributed to Anderson being the first to put the flute front-and-center in a rock band. But if you asked the pioneer what made him think that bold move would work, he’d humbly tell you it wasn’t all that calculated.

“It was a chance to change from playing guitar, which I knew I wasn’t going to be great at compared to Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck or Jimmy Page,” he says. “So I thought, for no particularly good reason, give the flute a go — but, of course, I had to find a way to play it that would be a little more forceful, energetic, and the equal of the electric guitar.”

This novel approach gave Jethro Tull the opportunity to stand out in a sea of great bands performing from the late ‘60s to the end of the ‘70s. It also gave them the staying power to still be heard today among the Ed Sheerans and Ariana Grandes of the world.

“I defy anybody to show me anything in the last 20 years that I would personally call new — it’s just putting a slight spin on things that have been done before,” says Anderson. “(Today’s music) doesn’t have the originality that the classic era of rock music has because then it really was shiny and new, and nobody had done that before.”

For the 50th anniversary tour, Anderson will be joined by David Goodier (bass), John O’Hara (keyboards), Florian Opahle (guitar) and Scott Hammond (drums). But don’t  consider this a swan song for the nearly 72-year-old Anderson or the legendary rock band. There’s both a book and new album on the horizon.

Anderson won’t reveal much about the album — “It’s a secret,” he says, “we’ll hopefully wrap it up sometime early next year” — but “The Ballad of Jethro Tull,” written by British rock journalist Mark Blake (“Is This The Real Life: The Untold Story of Queen,” “Pretend You’re in a War: The Who and The Sixties”), is currently available for pre-order.

Tickets to Ian Anderson Presents Jethro Tull 50th Anniversary at the Civic Theatre can be purchased online.

Donovan Roche has covered the world of music for more than 30 years. Send him your story ideas at droche17@cox.net.

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