Richard Thompson: Rock & Roll Repast

Posted: March 13th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | 1 Comment »

I’m a rock and roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

There was one thing that struck me immediately the first time I heard Richard Thompson live.

Which came in the 90s, well after Fairport Convention, well after his Richard and Linda Thompson days.

He was then performing solo most of the time, as I understand it.

What I noticed was how standing alone at the mic with an amplified acoustic guitar, outside at a festival with people moving about as happens in such situations, he totally commanded the situation and the attention of most.

Such is not an easy task.

Especially in the middle of the afternoon in front of 30,000 or so folks.

Of course, I was immediately smitten, because the first thing he said after his opening number was, Where else on earth would you rather be on this Thursday afternoon than in New Orleans at JazzFest?”

He had me at Where else on earth.”

That take charge presence can be attributed to a couple of things it seems.

First, just the nature of his charismatic personality. Then there are the tangibles. His deep resonant voice. His invigorating, powerful guitar stylings, where hed ring out the bass, rhythm and solos simultaneously.

There was also his very charismatic, funny and pithy banter between songs. All while manually changing the tuning on his guitar. No tech roadie necessary.

Truth is, of the half dozen times Ive heard Thompson live, the one time he really didnt resonate — for me anyway — was when he played the Bomhard with a band. I much prefer him solo. (I mean that show here wasn’t bad or anything, just not my favorite.)

Then theres the vast repertoire of his own songs. Clever. Astute. Sometimes disturbing with their honesty.

Many are love songs, or as an old pal once observed, anti-love songs.

Then again he can take a visit to an amusement park, and turn it into something more philosophical as in Wall of Death.”

How hell use old British folk song forms and modernize them. To great effect. As with his most famous tune, covered many times over, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.”

Or his tunes with an undercurrent of anger, yet are charming nonetheless because the listener doesnt know if the narrator is serious or pulling your leg? Like the fellow just out of prison in I Feel So Good.”

And I feel so good/ And I feel so good/ Well I feel so good I’m going to break somebody’s heart tonight

Thompson’s tunes are often dark, discomforting, yet still resonant. As the insecure point of view of a lover in “Cold Kisses.”

Here I am in your room going through your stuff/ Said you’d be gone five minutes/ That’s time enough

In the next. verse: Old photographs of the life you led/ Arm in arm with Mr. X, Y, and Zed/ Old boyfriends big and small/ Got to see how much I measure up to them all

The fellow could write about being jilted, like this that most of us have felt at one or another.

But I misunderstood/ But I misunderstood? But I misunderstood/ I though she was saying goo luck, she was saying goodbye

Richard Thompson, one of my faves, whom I’ll never pass up a chance to hear live. As his one time collaborator Nanci Griffith said of him, “He’s his own genre of music.”

— c d kaplan

One Comment on “Richard Thompson: Rock & Roll Repast”

  1. 1 Jim said at 6:01 pm on March 13th, 2024:

    Got to see him up close in a New Orleans club courtesy of my son. One of our best experiences together. Thompson is a genius too little credited.

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