It's still not entirely clear when 'A Passion Play' was given its live premiere. The originally intended premiere was to have been at the Empire Pool, Wembley, London, UK on 28 April, but this concert, and that of the following night, was cancelled, despite being a sold-out show.
Presumably the show needed a little more preparation, but this hadn't been completed by the start of the US tour. On 4 May, in Evansville, In., the 'Lifebeats' intro was used (without the film), but this led straight into 'Thick As A Brick' (TAAB), omitting APP. The 'Hare...' interval film was shown, out of context, but unfortunately broke down.
Further problems delayed the arrival of Tull's equipment at the following evenings show, in Clemson, SC. This meant that despite the abandonment of the support band's set, the concert did not begin until 10pm; Tull skipped APP completely, instead performing the same set as earlier in the year.
'A Passion Play' was omitted again at the next show, in Johnstown, Pa. on 7 May, though an audience member recalls seeing the APP masks and possibly the 'Lifebeat's' film, which led into TAAB. The show was also interrupted by three PA failures leaving Ian inaudible, but these were during TAAB, clearly after the decision to skip APP had already been taken, rather than being the reason for the omission.
According to a contemporary Circus magazine article, Tull went straight from there to Knoxville, Tn., not for a concert but to devote a further four days to rehearsal, rather than ruin the entire tour. There is even doubt about this, as it's known Tull definitely played in Oxford, Oh. on 9 May, and Knoxville is a long way from Johnstown and Oxford. The TAAB set was performed again in Oxford, but Ian announced that this would be the last concert before the debut of APP.
Again according to Circus, the 10 May show in Columbus, Oh. was cancelled, as the venue could not accommodate Tull's 'electrically heavy' equipment. However (yet another 'however'...), another source alleges Tull played at Kent State University, in Kent, Oh. (over 100 miles from Columbus) that night; the setlist isn't known. Perhaps the Columbus show was relocated to Kent.
However (oh no...), there's a possibility that the Circus article was referring to the Kent show anyway; if so, that leaves 10 May with no concert at all.
An audience member clearly recalls a Spring '73 concert at Michigan State University, in East Lansing, Mi., unexpectedly announced a matter of hours before of the performance. It was announced as a surprise show to test the audience reaction to the unreleased material; this was understood to mean it was the live premiere. Though there's no conclusive evidence that it was on 10 May (28 May is also a possibility) the description of the circumstances fits remarkably well.
If that's too straightforward, there's a further complication: a poster exists, advertising the East Lansing show on 15 May. This is odd for a number of reasons. If this was a 'surprise' unscheduled show, would there have been time to print and distribute posters? The poster mentions the date, but surely it would have said "Tonight!", unless scheduled and advertised well in advance, which contradicts the eyewitness account above. Furthermore, the tour schedule claims the 15 May concert was in Memphis, Tn. - is that incorrect too, or is the poster wrong?
Finally, clarity can be restored: Tull quite definitely played APP at the much-bootlegged 11 May concert at the Norfolk Scope in Hampton, Va. This can go on record as the first verified public performance.
Or... perhaps not. An audience member of other shows in this region in May confirms that Tull did not perform at the Scope at all in 1973. A newpaper advert also lists an entirely different event at the venue on this date.
Ahem. Finally, clarity can be re-restored: APP was definitely (no, really) performed, without problems, at the Civic Coliseum, Knoxville, Tn. on 13 May. The audience of this, the first verified (no, really) public performance were reportedly "spellbound".
The Concert Programme
As usual, concert programmes were sold to the audience at 'A Passion Play' shows. Thanks to Steve Davies, who scanned his copy, we are able to reproduce it here.
As already described in the annotations of Act One, live performances of The Play began in a unique way, up to twenty minutes ahead of the scheduled start time and with an introductory film preceding the appearence of the band.
On a number of occasions, the lyrics sung at concerts differed from those on the album. It could be that Ian merely stumbled over the complex lyrics, particularly as the whole piece was so new and probably less rehearsed that he'd have liked. Alternatively, these could be deliberately changes; further refinements made after recording.
|Act 2 (Critique Oblique):|
|Lover of the black and white it's your first night.
The Passion Play, goes all the way, spoils your insight.
|Actor of the black and white it's your first night.|
[Indistinct, but clearly totally different to the album lyric.]
|Tell me how the baby's made, how the lady's laid,
why the old dog howls in sadness.
|Tell me how the baby's made, how the lady's laid,|
why the old dogs howl with sadness.
(11 May, 20 July, Chateau d'Isaster Tapes)
|Tell me: how the baby's graded, how the lady's faded,
why the old dogs howl with madness.
|Tell me: how the baby's graded, why the lady's faded,|
how the old dogs howl with sadness.
(11 May; 'sadness' on 20 July, too.)
|Old gentlemen talk of when they were young
of ladies lost and erring sons.
|Old gentlemen talk of when they were young|
of ladies lost and bearing sons.
|Animals queuing at the gate that stands upon the shore
||Animals queuing at the gates that stand upon the shore
Changed Running Order
For live shows after 28 August (possibly from the start of that tour, on 26 August), a major change was made to APP, which could be seen as breaking it into two songs divided by a third; it was no longer played as a continuous unit, instead pausing after 'The Hare...' and 'Forest Dance #2'. A ~7 minute version of 'My God' then led into a 'classical'-sounding keyboard solo, which itself blended seamlessly into the instrumental section of 'The Foot of Our Stairs' in Act 3 of The Play, with Ian picking up the lyrics at "Well, I'm all for leaving...".
It is quite likely that a popular and familiar song was deliberately inserted to recapture the possibly waning attention of the audience, making The Play a little more palatable to a concert audience. However 'My God' does have some relevance at this point of The Play, replacing Ronnie's description of boring everyday existence in Heaven. This is the key point - 'My God' was not inserted between 'The Hare...' and Act 3, it was inserted as part of Act 3 - though changed, APP was still one continuous piece. In the context of the 'Aqualung' album, 'My God' is a tirade about the discrepancy between organised religion and the 'reality' of God. As a part of The Play, this has added resonance, as Ronnie sees this discrepancy for himself, finding that the blissful Heaven promised by the Church is just as worthy and backward-looking as the mortal church.