As the frontman and creative force behind the classic British rock band Jethro Tull, Ian Anderson is accustomed to performing for large crowds around the world.
Anderson has now embarked on a 22-city solo tour, which is bringing him to more intimate venues.
Billed as An Evening with Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson, the tour includes a stop at Penn's Peak in Jim Thorpe on Sunday, Oct. 24.
The tour provides a change of pace for Anderson, whose singing and flute playing have been hallmarks of Jethro Tull for four decades.
"I like playing quirky little places that we haven't been there before," said the 64 year-old Anderson in a phone interview from his home in southwest England. "I kind of like playing these places when I'm not playing Tull shows.
"In tours in North America and the U.K., I ask them to book us in places where we never played before. That's kind of exciting, playing some little place in the middle of nowhere, some little arena where they are excited to see you come through. America has a lot of places like that, that we've never been before."
Since Jethro Tull was formed in 1968, Anderson has been its only constant member. The band was named after the inventor of the seed plow.
Anderson is widely recognized as the man who introduced the flute to rock music. His work has brought him critical acclaim as well as commercial success.
In 2006, Anderson was awarded a Doctorate in Literature from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh, the Ivor Award for International Achievement in Music and, in the New Years Honours List 2008, an MBE for services to music.
The music of Jethro Tull is an eclectic mix, combining progressive rock with blues, folk, jazz and classical elements. The band's last release was an album of Christmas music in 2008.
Tull's big breakthrough in the U.S. came with the release of "Aqualung" in 1971. That album remains Tull's biggest seller and contains two of its most familiar songs in the title track and "Locomotive Breath," which still receive ample airplay on classic rock radio. Other well-known Tull songs include "Bungle in the Jungle," "Living in the Past," and "Skating Away on the Thin Ice of a New Day".
Tull's zenith in America was 1971-77, when Anderson and company had seven LPs reach the top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 Albums chart. Two of those albums, "Thick as a Brick" (1972) and "A Passion Play" (1973) hit number one, and "War Child" (1974) peaked at number two.
While Tull has released over 30 albums, Anderson himself has recorded four diverse solo works, including "Walk into Light" (1983), the flute instrumental "Divinities" (1995), which reached number one on the Billboard Classical chart, and the more recent acoustic collections of songs, "The Secret Language of Birds" (2000), and "Rupi's Dance" (2003).
Anderson said he will perform both acoustic and electric sets that include Tull tunes and his solo songs, as well as some new songs written specifically for this tour.
Anderson will be accompanied by two current Tull mates, bassist David Goodier and keyboardist-accordian player John O'Hara, as well as German guitarist Florian Opahle and drummer Scott Hammond.
With a multitude of material from which to select, Anderson explained that the setlist was narrowed down to about 40 songs during rehearsals for the tour.
"The set list is about 20-30 percent too long, but I don't want to give other musicians the task of learning a whole lot of stuff that they might not have to play, actually," he said.
"I try not to waste people's time. We have three people who are familiar with the material, but we do have a new drummer (Hammond) who has to learn it."
Production-wise, Anderson prefers to keep it simple on the concert stage.
"One reason I don't like bigger production tours is that everything has to be in place," he remarked. "We (Tull) did that in 1971-72. It's just an awful lot of extra work, and it became too much of a theatrical thing.
"We try to stick with a set list as far as we can, broadly speaking. It varies from night to night. The smell of a place is different, so you might do something else that can fulfill the same purpose. We try not to do too much differently. Musicians are adaptable, but the crew has to do other things. It can put pressure on them, and they don't always like that."
With Tull, Anderson has experienced a variety of audience reactions, and he knows crowds differ in the ways they express their admiration. American audiences aren't shy in showing their enthusiasm or displeasure.
"We play before more of a rock-oriented audience in the U.S.," he commented. "They are brought up with their football and baseball, and people shout, hoot and holler. They need to make their presence felt in places where silence is golden. In their way, they think they are encouraging you, and they don't mean to be rude.
"American people are used to a degree of freedom unheard of in other parts of the world, and they say exactly what is on their minds. It's a cultural reality."
Anderson mentioned he once performed at the Beacon Theater, a rock venue in New York City, and warned the band that the crowd could be vociferous, for good or bad, and was surprised. "They (the fans) were as good as gold," he noted.
On the other hand, he recalled playing a show at Carnegie Hall where police had to eject rowdy patrons.
"Jethro Tull is not going to trash the dressing rooms, spit on anybody or go body surfing, but I don't have control of the fans," he said.
This tour will give Anderson a chance to present another side of his music. "It's an opportunity to stretch out, really," he related.
An evening with Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson will be presented at Penn's Peak on Sunday, Oct. 24. Doors open at 6 p.m. with show time at 8 p.m. Tickets are $40 for premium reserved seating and $35 for regular reserved seating. Tickets are available online at www.ticketmaster.com, at Ticketmaster outlets, including Boscov's and Gallery of Sound, and at the Penn's Peak box office and Roadies Restaurant. Call the box office at 1-866-605-PEAK for more information.