August 14, Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
When I saw the programme for the Fringe, it was clear to me above all: whatever happened, I had to get to see Richard Thompson at the Queen’s Hall. Not that I hadn’t seen the man before (twice before, at the very same venue, 2005 and 2006) – but live he is so good that it tends to focus all your other priorities.
And yet again, this quietly unassuming singer-songwriter did not disappoint. Armed with just an acoustic guitar and a couple of effects (used well on ‘Crawl Back’), we got an hour and a half set. He’s a witty man, without coming across as trying to show off, and he held the audience (with an age span of about fifty years by my reckoning) in the palm of his hand.
Before the gig, I’d sat with my friend Jared trying to work out what our fantasy Richard Thompson setlist would be. So, I didn’t get ‘I Feel So Good’ or ‘Turning Of The Tide’ or ‘Shoot Out the Lights.’ It really didn’t matter. The sheer joy of being there, wowing at his still amazing voice (McCartney and Elton are barely older than him, but their voices are going, Thompson’s is as strong as ever) and guitar playing that makes you marvel it’s just him doing it. But we did get three songs off my personal favourite Thompson album Rumour and Sigh: ‘Don’t Sit On My Jimmy Shands’, ‘I Misunderstood’ and my favourite Thompson song of all ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning,’ his (successful) attempt to write an English road song.
Two amazing moments that stand out. He’d just played the annual Fairport Convention, er, Convention that is Cropredy, and the version of Sandy Denny’s ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes’ was beautiful beyond description. There seemed to be a lot of deep swallowing going on around me. It wasn’t just me trying to blink back the tears. And the encore was ‘From Galway To Graceland’ the story of an Irish housewife obsessed with Elvis who goes from…oh, you’re ahead of me. Anyway, it was a perfect finish to an awesome concert.
It is hard with someone you admire as much as I admire Richard Thompson to write a review that doesn’t come across as sycophantic or worse. Too bad. Once again, I can only marvel and wonder why he isn’t lauded as much as he ought to be.
Not from the gig, but this does demonstrate why so many hold Mr. Thompson is such high regard.