Richard Thompson: a genius unplugged

Richard Thompson: Lighthouse, Poole

Fifty long years after he made his first appearances as a shy but talented teenage guitarist with Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson is rightly regarded as a one of our greatest singer-songwriters and a brilliant and innovative musician.

This tour offers a fascinating stripped-down perspective on a career that not only spans half-a-century but has produced some peerless material that actually changed the course of folk music history.

Armed only with an acoustic guitar, an extraordinary talent and the kind of songs that it’s hard to believe haven’t existed forever, Thompson played a two hour set that covered all bases.

There were reworkings of wonderful solo recordings like Gethsemane, and 1952 Vincent Black Lightning. There was a nod too to Fairport with a tender version of Who Knows Where the Time Goes and several classics from the Richard and Linda years with I Want to See the Bright Lights tonight, Wall of Death and a singalong version of Down Where the Drunkards Roll.

Performing at the top of his game, 68-year-old Thompson resplendent in cut-off denim jacket and trademark beret was in fine voice. It’s hard to believe that back in the early years of his career he had little confidence as a singer. Somewhere along the line he quite literally found his voice and it’s been getting better ever since.

Perhaps even more impressive is his beautifully dextrous guitar work. Whether playing brilliantly evocative songs like the emotive They Tore The Hippodrome Down or thrashing his way through Push and Shove, his largely forgotten and previously unrecorded  tip of the beret to The Who, Richard Thompson is the consummate guitarists guitarist.

This tour largely supports his recently released Acoustic Classics and Acoustic rarities albums but it also offers a chance to wonder at the depth and breadth of his repertoire and his abilities as both an artist and an entertainer.

Perhaps the two sides of that coin were captured to perfection in the final encores with Waltzing’s for Dreamers and Don’t Sit On My Jimmy Shands.

Support act was singer Josienne Clark and guitarist Ben Walker who also paid tribute to Thompson’s late lamented one-time Fairport Convention bandmate Sandy Denny with an impressive version of Fotheringay.

Jeremy Miles

Author: Jeremy Miles

Writer, journalist, photographer, arts and theatre publicist and occasional art historian.

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