LIVE: Richard Thompson @ The Egg, 12/1/17

Review by Mark Alexander Hudson

I was one of the lucky people in the audience last Friday night at The Egg’s Sawyer Theatre to witness Richard Thompson on an early stop of his 2017 solo and acoustic tour. Lucky, because Thompson held the crowd absolutely spellbound for his nearly two-hour set in a consummate display of fine songwriting and stunning guitar prowess.

Thompson strode onto the stage clad all in grey and black, topped with his trademark Kangol. He then proceeded to treat us to a deep dive through his songbook, and what a songbook it is. Thompson has long been accused of being too dark and cynical in his writing. He even joked about it. “I beg to differ,” he protested early on. “That first one was mid-tempo depressing, the second was slow depressing, and this next one is fast depressing!” The truth is that he writes a great variety of songs. Sure some are bitter, but many others showcase his sly sense of humor and his pointed social conscience.

And the other truth is that he has never allowed commercial considerations to taint his muse. “This was my only Top 40 hit in England,” he announced proudly before playing “I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight.” “It got to Number 40!”

Thompson is perhaps best known for being a founding member of Fairport Convention, the seminal British band that virtually invented the genre of Folk Rock with their fusion of traditional songs and electric instrumentation. He left the band in the early ’70s to pursue a solo career, but he referenced his old band’s 50th anniversary by playing a gorgeous version of Sandy Denny’s “Who Knows Where the Time Goes?,” calling the late vocalist and former band mate “one of the finest singers ever in any kind of music.”

Other highlights were many – the delicate balladry of “Beeswing,” the rollicking rockabilly of “Valerie,” the audience participation romp through “Tear Stained Letter” and, of course, one of the best songs ever written about a
motorbike (or, indeed, one of the best songs ever written, period), “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”

Throughout, Thompson’s guitar playing was jaw dropping. He has the uncanny ability to play rhythm and lead lines simultaneously so that the sound coming from the stage often sounded like a full band.

After three encores, the crowd reluctantly dispersed, having seen a master craftsman at the top of his game.

Richard Thompson – part folk, part rock – all genius.

The Ghost of You Walks
Crocodile Tears
Push & Shove
They Tore the Hippodrome Down
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
Who Knows Where the Time Goes?
1952 Vincent Black Lightning
Tear Stained Letter
A Love You Can’t Survive
Right or Wrong
Wall of Death
Hots for the Smarts
The Dimming of the Day
Read About Love
Down Where the Drunkards Roll
Cooksferry Queen

  1. Edward Dimmer says

    One could write three books about Richard Thompson and his music.This was a very disappointing review and insight of a true genius. Very much on the surface. Learned nothing new, but did like his setlist at end of the article.

  2. Jeff Porcaro says

    He ended with King of Bohemia after the list printed above…

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