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Richard Thompson

Great show last night. Richard Thompson is a funny man—between songs, he joked with the crowd in a poker-faced, self-deprecating way that reminded me a lot of Lyle Lovett: saying something funny and then, after the crowd had finished laughing, saying something even funnier. Clearly, he was having a good time.

As for the music, I've always found Thompson to be a dazzling guitarist, but I'm not sure I realized just how good he is until seeing him play an acoustic guitar for two hours last night. His finger-picking style brings a rich, resonant, multi-layered sound out of his guitar. He had no need for accompaniment. Unfortunately, I was seated behind a guy who was taller than I am and had a head the size of a pumpkin, so I couldn't watch Thompson's playing as much as I had hoped to.

The songs? Wow. He played a ballsy set, and by that I mean he selected many songs from his album Pour Down Like Silver that are better known for vocals by his former wife, Linda: "Walking on a Wire," "Dimming of the Day" among them, with the highlight being "For Shame of Doing Wrong," the latter with one of the most mournful choruses in all of music: "I wish I was a fool for you again." He also tackled "Genesis House," dating back to the late '60s when he was playing with Fairport Convention (of which Thompson said, justifiably, "We only invented folk rock, that's all."). Here, he was competing with the original vocals by the incomparable Sandy Denny.

He also played three songs from his favorite album, Mock Tudor. I saw him with his band on that tour, and wow. Just wow. Last night, his selections from Mock Tudor were "Cooksferry Queen," "Bathsheba Smiles" and the wistful "Uninhabited Man." Surprisingly, "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," from Rumour and Sigh, came early in the set instead of being played as an encore. It may be Thompson's best known song, and the applause at the end reflected it.

"Vincent Black Lightning" was on my list of five songs I wanted to hear, but I didn't think he was going to play the one I really wanted to hear until he came out for the first encore. A woman about two rows behind me called out for "The Ghost of You Walks," and Thompson said he couldn't hear her. But he obviously wanted to and kept asking her what the song was. Eventually, the crowd was hushed—a silence I've never heard at a concert. Thompson heard the title said "Thank you," and then played the song, "The Ghost of You Walks," from You? Me? Us? During the second encore, someone else called out for "Wall of Death." He played it. That encouraged a tall guy in the right orchestra, sixth row, with a bald head and glasses who had driven two and a half hours to the show, to call out his request: "Beeswing." It turned out to be the last song of the night.

A perfect ending. Just perfect.


( 13 comments — Leave a comment )
Oct. 9th, 2011 05:35 pm (UTC)
I had always heard how great he was but his recordings just didn't do much for me. Then last year I saw him live at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. He played about a 50-minute set and it was amazing.
Oct. 9th, 2011 06:06 pm (UTC)
You know what I'm talking about. The theater last night was only a little more than half-full. I simply don't understand why this guy has been under the radar for so long. He's been around more than 40 years, and back when he was with Fairport Convention he was considered a top-flight guitarist.

For my money, the place to start with Thompson is the 3-CD set Watching the Dark. It is chock full of great songs, including the ones with Linda that I mention in my review. Then I would go with Rumour and Sigh,which doesn't have a bad song on it; Amnesia; and Mock Tudor. Shoot Out the Lights may be his most acclaimed album, and the last he recorded with Linda, but I don't like it nearly as well as these other three.
Oct. 10th, 2011 11:19 am (UTC)
No mention of Liege and Lief? ;)
Oct. 10th, 2011 02:59 pm (UTC)
Wow, there is a musical blast from the past. No, he didn't mention Liege and Lief. I don't believe I've ever heard him perform a song from that album, although truth be told, the only FC songs I would recognize are "Genesis Hall," "Now Be Thankful" and "A Sailor's Life."
Oct. 9th, 2011 09:19 pm (UTC)
I've heard the name before, but not the music. Completely fantastic! My dad and I are jamming out to Dream Attic as we speak. Thanks!
Oct. 9th, 2011 10:29 pm (UTC)
He only played one song from Dream Attic last night: "Stumble On." As for the CD, I think some songs are very good and some are excellent, but I also think there are a couple of clunkers: "Among the Gorse, Among the Grey," and "Here Comes Geordie," but on the other hand, "If Love Whispers Your Name" is worth the CD price alone. And "Sidney Wells" is damned good, too; Thompson tells stories in his songs like few others. And man, can he play guitar.

Dream Attic is all new songs, but rather than putting out a studio album, he opted to record the songs live. At that show, he and his band played one set of the new songs, then returned and played a second set of older stuff. I have the European release, a 2-CD set that includes all of the live songs recorded with just Thompson and his acoustic guitar.
Oct. 9th, 2011 11:29 pm (UTC)
I like the review but I love the ending -- glad the guy who drove 2.5 hours was encouraged to ask for his song. Gladder that RT played it.
Oct. 9th, 2011 11:53 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Carole. This was the first time I'd seen R.T. without a band, and I was a little apprehensive on the way over because a few weeks ago, Sherry had said she wished he was playing with a band. But he didn't disappoint either of us.

But now there's nothing on my concert calendar. Woeful me.
Oct. 10th, 2011 12:56 am (UTC)
Give it time. Someone(s) will show up.
Oct. 10th, 2011 01:08 am (UTC)
Oh - so, so happy for the tall guy in orchestra right and his lovely date.

I read this to kiddo, and he called up a few songs on YouTube; the first one he found was Beeswing, which is also the one you linked to a month or so ago.
Oct. 10th, 2011 01:21 am (UTC)
Fortunately, I wasn't the only one calling out for that song. Of course, I yelled twice in different voices.

And Sherry enjoyed herself, which was the best part of the whole night.
Oct. 12th, 2011 11:15 pm (UTC)
Tall Guy in Right Orchestra
This reminds me of the first time I saw RT live, during the Rumor and Sigh tour. I got to meet him after the show in Minneapolis and told him we drove 5 hours to see him that night (true story!). Having played in Regina, Saskatchewan (Canada) the night before, he responded "We drove 13 hours to see YOU tonight!" All I could do then was ask for an autograph, which he happily provided.
Oct. 12th, 2011 11:17 pm (UTC)
Re: Tall Guy in Right Orchestra
That's my favorite Thompson record. I even like "(Don't Step on My) Jimmy Shands."
( 13 comments — Leave a comment )

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