Monday, 24 January 2011

The 'blessed' Richard Thompson OBE

June Tabor always refers to him in such a way when she introduces one of his songs, and such is the man's pedigree, back catalogue, and reputation, that it's hard to argue.  At Salisbury City Hall he was in typically fine form, touring his most recent album, the Grammy nominated Dream Attic.  Sometimes he comes over here with just his guitar, and on other occasions he brings a band, and that is the case on this latest tour.  It's a matter of personal taste whether you prefer the acoustic or the electric Thompson - I'm in the former camp but that's not to say I dislike the latter.

You get value for money from a Richard Thompson show, and on this occasion he played for not far short of two and a half hours: the first set was Dream Attic, and the second was a greatest hits set, albeit as the man himself said, with a small 'h'!  Dream Attic isn't my favourite Thompson album, or at least it wasn't when I played the band version, but the album contains a second CD of acoustic versions of the songs, and that one's growing on me the more I listen to it.

Such is the depth of the Thompson back catalogue that his selection of 'greatest hits' was very different to what mine would have been, but I'm just an old folkie at heart!  My one complaint about the show - and it's an odd one to make about a guitar hero - was that there was too much guitar!  I love 'Can't Win', and I even love the guitar solos on the recorded versions, but why did the man feel the need to add an interminable solo onto the end of it - far better to have cut it short and played another song.  The multi-talented Pete Zorn is a fixture in most of Thompson's bands and it's hard to be in anything other than awe of the man's playing, but there was too much shrill soprano sax in this show.  The stars in the band were the rhythm section of Michael Jerome on drums, and Taras Prodaniuk on bass - they set a driving beat that carried things along at breakneck pace.

For me the stand-out moment of the evening was 'Sidney Wells' a typically dark Thmpson song about a serial killer.  As he said in the introduction, no evening is complete without a murder ballad!  It was wonderful played by the band, and the acoustic version on the bonus CD is even better.

Richard Thompson's tours are on my list as gigs that I must get to, and this latest concert was excellent, even if it didn't quite live up to the remarkable Mock Tudor, The Old Kit Bag, and Sweet Warrior tours of recent years.  If you get the chance to see him before he heads back to his adopted home in California.

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