Richard Thompson: Usher Hall, Edinburgh, February 28, 2013
Despite the fact that he now resides in America, Richard Thompson has made a number of visits to Edinburgh over the past few years. I’ve seen him no less than three times at this city’s Queen’s Hall venue since 2005, but this time he was promoting his new album, appropriately entitled Electric, and he was here as part of a three-piece band. Michael Jerome (drums) and Taras Prodaniuk (bass) were certainly what muso-types might refer to as ‘tight’ and in the absence of any female backing singers (and I suspect we aren’t going to see him onstage with Linda Thompson, any more than Sandy Denny’s going to be back to play with him), their harmonies certainly added to the sound.
Electric his new album has given him his highest chart placing in the UK ever (no.16) and not surprisingly it formed the basis for much of tonight’s gig. The album is Thompson firing on all cylinders and if it’s not quite as amazing as some of the records he has made over his forty years plus in the business, it’s because he has set the bar so high. Certainly; no-one can really accuse him of relying on past glories, and songs like ‘Good Things Happen To Bad People’ ‘Sally B’ and ‘Salford Sunday’ (which he acknowledges as being more about the Salford described in Ewan MacColl’s Dirty Old Town than where the BBC has now decamped to) are welcome additions to the fine inventory that is the Richard Thompson songbook.
But he also delved into his back catalogue and treated us to both ‘Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed?’ and ‘Wall Of Death’ from 1982’s Shoot Out the Lights, the murder ballad ‘Sidney Wells’ from Dream Attic and to the delight of the crowd ‘For Shame Of Doing Wrong’ from Pour Down Like Silver. Sure, there were ommissions – ‘I Feel So Good’ ‘Dry My Tears and Move On’ ‘Turning Of The Tide’…but the reality is that genius though he undoubtedly is, even Richard Thompson can only cram so many songs into a two hour set.
Amongst the encores was a cover of ‘Hey Joe’ acknowledging that he was playing as part of a power trio, like the Jimi Hendrix Experience or Cream. The latter may have made a global superstar of Eric Clapton, but I can’t help feeling that of all the sixties singers, Thompson is the one who still has it,voice, songwriting skills and all.
May we have another visit soon, please?