Initially playing blues rock with an experimental flavour, they have also incorporated elements of classical music, folk music, jazz and art rock into their music.
The band’s stage theatrics peaked during the Thick As A Brick tour, a performance distinguished by stage hands wearing the tan trench-coat/madras cap ensemble from the album art, extras in rabbit suits running across stage and an extended interlude during which Barre and Barlow entered a beach-tent onstage and swapped pants.
A Passion Play was planned to have a full-length film to go with the stage theatrics. However, from this effort, it seems that only a few excerpts have survived to be re-released on recent commemorative videos of the band, including the interlude “The Story of the Hare Who Lost His Spectacles.”
A similar multi-media effort had been planned for Too Old To Rock and Roll… but was not completed. Thereafter, the emphasis on theatrics was reduced but never eliminated. In 1982’s Broadsword and the Beast concerts, the entire stage was transformed into a Viking ship. Anderson often dressed as a country squire on tours in the late 1970s, with the rest of the band adopting the style during their folk phase. The A tour featured the same white jumpsuit uniforms worn by the band on the album cover. Certain routines from the 1970s have recently become ensconced in concerts, such as having a song interrupted by a phone call for an audience member (which Anderson now takes on a cell) and the climactic conclusion of shows including bombastic instrumentals and the giant balloons which Anderson would carry over his head and toss into the crowd.
In 1992, Jethro Tull embarked on a tour titled A Little Light Music, with most of the show focusing on acoustic songs, many of which they had not played live for years, if at all. A live CD was recorded on this tour and released under the same title later in that year. This was well received by fans because of its different takes on many past compositions, as well as a rendition of the folk song “John Barleycorn”. As documented by these live performances, Ian’s voice had clearly improved since his vocal cord injury in the mid-Eighties. After the CD release, the tour continued as a show of two halves, the Light and Dark Tour.
1993 was marked as the 25th Anniversary of Jethro Tull by the release of various new products, as well as an extensive Anniversary Tour, which started in May 1993 and lasting nearly a year. In keeping with the anniversary theme, this tour again revived a number of older songs.
The 25th Anniversary Box was a four-CD set including new and vintage live recordings, remixed and remastered songs from earlier albums, and re-recordings of old songs by the 90s band. A two-CD Anniversary Collection compilation was also released, containing original tracks remastered, and a video collection included new interviews, promo videos and archive material. The remixed single, Living in the (Slightly more Recent) Past, reached #32 in the UK singles chart. A planned second boxed set of outtakes and rare tracks was scaled down to two discs and released towards the end of the year under the title Nightcap.
Their 2008 tour, celebrating 40 years of the band, included many older songs as well as guest appearances from former band members and others.
Jethro Tull and sitarist Anoushka Shankar postponed a concert scheduled for 29 November 2008 in Mumbai after the November 2008 Mumbai attacks. They reorganized the performance as A Billion Hands Concert, a benefit concert for victims of the attacks, and held it on 5 December 2008. Ian Anderson commented on this decision stating that: “Some people might consider it disrespectful that we are having a concert but hopefully a majority will realise what this is about and what it says.”