Monday, June 11, 2007
I've seen Richard Thompson many times, so I'm both a little biased, but I'm also a little jaded. Every other time I saw him, he was alone. He has toured with others like Bonnie Raitt and her band, but he performed alone. Except when he joined Bonnie and her group on stage. He's a complete showman. He can make a guitar seem like more than one instrument at at time. Yet, it does lack a little. This show was in support of his recent recording Sweet Warrior. Its a good recording, better than some, not his best. It has some great stuff on it as usual.
The show at the Fitz tonight included three other band members. First was the multi-instrument playing Pete Zorn (I think) . He was awesome, playing bass flute which Richard referred to as "wicked piece of plumbing" because it is goofy looking, as well as mandolin, guitar, alto and tenor sax, and backing vocals. Then there was Danny Thompson (no relation) playing an amplified upright bass both with his fingers or a bow. Last was the percussionist a tall lanky fellow by the name of Michael Jerome. His normal playing style was a mere flick of the wrist, but was loud enough. At times he really stretched out his enormous arms (I'm guessing he's a six foot tall kind of guy) and effortlessly got gigantic sound volume. Oh, man and tight. Every song seemed to have tempo changes and prearranged frilly ends to songs. All four guys were just note for note solid. Seeing a bunch of experienced artists work so hard and make it look effortless yet be so on top of their game was just stupendous.
I'm not good at knowing song titles and such, but he played an excellent spectrum of his stuff from Fairport Convention songs, to something from his days with Linda his then wife ("Wall of Death"), to other recordings from the eighties and nineties. Some of the loudest calls of appreciation came for one of my favorites; "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" from Rumor and Sigh. He also played "A Man in Need", "Al Bowly's In Heaven", "Tear Stained Letter", and a lot of songs from the new disc. The ones I recall are:
Needle and Thread
I'll Never Give Up
Dad's Gonna Kill Me ("a pro anti-war song" where "Dad" is short for Bagdad, like "Nam" was short for Vietnam)
Too Late to Come Fishing
If there was more, its because I've not listened to the new disc enough. I'm there to enjoy myself not be a scribe for the folks that like set lists. Its not my thing.
There was one song I didn't recognize. One companion noted how "He's on fire" and the other noted "he shredded that sucker." It was the longest solo I've ever seen Richard do. Plus there were solo's for Danny on bass and Pete on one instrument. Michael didn't need solos, you couldn't miss his solid beat. It was always there. The song just left me in awe.
Richard I think was at his best with a band. He didn't have to carry the whole show. He can and make it look effortless without them. But this way he seemed energized, playful (see solos), and even more witty with the audience. Every time I've ever seen RT, the locals yell out their favorites (note I did not yell out "Black Vincent" or "Red Molly" as some might call it) for him to play. In one show they kept yelling out stuff from his early years or the stuff he and Linda had done. I don't think at the time that was in his fondest memory. At one point he got serious stopped tuning and diddling with the strings and inquired, "have you bought any recordings from the recent decade?" This time he was kinder. Telling them, yes, thank you, we aren't going to play them, but if you must go ahead shout titles out. He muttered at one point, I might be the only one on stage that knows that one. He had a set list, and they were sticking to it. This wasn't bad. In fact it was great. A two hour plus show, they started on time, there was no warm up, just the headliner coming out without a dramatic delay. And they got right to it. And it was one hell of a ride and I'm guessing there were few that didn't appreciate it. I know I and my companions really enjoyed RT and his band tonight. I'll see him every time he comes with a band. It was that good.