Gig Review – Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson, Edinburgh Queen’s Hall, August 25

It takes a really special skill to be able to walk out onto a stage with scarcely any more equipment than a street busker. But Richard Thompson really is a special kind of artist. It’s not the first time he’s played Edinburgh Queen’s Hall, armed with just his guitar, a few effects and a mike. But the fact remains that no matter how many times I’ve seen him, he still blows his audience away.

His latest album, Acoustic Classics, is his own attempt to convey what just some of his back catalogue stripped down to just him and his acoustic guitar sound lie. For someone frequently reckoned to be one of England’s finest electric guitarist, that might seem either leaving one of his main strengths behind or a way of conning more money out of your audience, if you wanted to be cynical. The fact is that it shows why he has such a fantastic songbook, and tonight’s gig reinforces just that.

Not only is he a master of all trades (singer, guitarist, songwriter) but he’s also a pretty witty raconteur. Early on in the set he plays ‘Valerie,’ casually fluffs up the intro and makes a joke out of it, being as he’s played it so many times. He goes on to deliver a version that is even better than on record – there’s comedians playing the now-ending festival that would do well to learn from him how to handle an audience.

And with a songbook like his – going back to very nearly half a century – he has an awesome array of tunes at his disposal. So we get a number of tunes that have reappeared on Acoustic Classics – ‘Walking On A Wire’ ‘ Persuasion’ ‘I Misunderstood’ and of course the fabulous English road song that is ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning.’ We get a number that didn’t – including tracks from last year’s brilliant Electric -‘Stony Ground’ and ‘Good Things Happen To Bad People,’ as well as ‘The Ghost Of You Walks’ ‘Dry My Tears And Move On’ and ‘Pharoah’ (he introduces the latter as being his ‘paranoia’ song).

Yet perhaps the most moving moment of the night is when he talks about being in Fairport Convention and it’s clear he misses Sandy Denny still. And then he plays ‘Who Knows Where The Time Goes?’ I have honestly never cried at a gig before, but it was intensely moving and I wasn’t the only bloke playing with their glasses in the dark trying to make out they had something in their eye.

And justly, our man goes off to a standing ovation, before giving us ‘Beeswing’ and ‘Wall Of Death’ for encores (and another standing ovation). Even into the 2010s, Richard Thompson is continuing to win new admirers (the kid in front of me was ten years old, if that) and finally, getting the chart positions that he deserves.

A performance that touched a loyal and loving audience.

Acoustic Classics is out now on Beeswing/Proper

Album Review – Richard Thompson


Richard Thompson -‘Acoustic Classics.’ (Beeswing/Proper)

There are many who might describe themselves as ‘singer-songwriter-guitarists’ but in Richard Thompson’s case, it’s true: he excel at all of them. And while many of his generation may find their voices starting to fade, his remains as strong as ever.

And while this concept – studio-recorded versions of fourteen songs from his (outstanding) back catalogue might be money for old rope in the hands of many, in Mr. Thompson’s case, it shows that not only is he incredibly gifted, but even stripped down to just him and a guitar, they lose nothing. Having seen him live both solo and with a band, I can attest to just how well these songs can work stripped down.

His solo career stretches back to 1972, and this album contains a lot of classics – ‘From Galway To Graceland’ and ‘Vincent Black Lightning 1952’ as well as numbers from when he recorded with his then-wife Linda: ‘Wall Of Death,’ ‘Shoot Out The Lights’ and ‘I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight.’

It’s not a greatest hits album, but if you’ve never heard his music (for shame! for shame!), then this is a good place to start. If you know his music, this works very well as an album in its own right.


Acoustic Classics is out now on Beeswing/Proper

Gig review: Richard Thompson

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?

Gig Review: Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson
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.

Photos from the gig can be seen at the Queen’s Hall Flickr page

Not from the gig, but this does demonstrate why so many hold Mr. Thompson is such high regard.

Richard Thompson and Sandy Denny news


Part of my opening my mind to pre-punk music has been the joy of discovering Sandy Denny and Richard Thompson – not to mention the work they did together in Fairport Convention in the 1960s.

So…Two bits of news to share with you.

Firstly, nearly forty years after its’ release, Sandy Denny’s first solo album The North Star Grassman and the Ravens is being re-issued as a two CD deluxe set. According to the press release: ” Disc One of the deluxe edition features the original 1971 album with four bonus tracks. These include a band demo of ‘Next Time Around’, an early version of the song with Andy Johns at the helm, and a duet with Richard Thompson on Ernest Tubb’s ’Walking The Floor Over You’, both of which first appeared on last year’s acclaimed limited edition 19 CD boxed set. An unreleased instrumental version of the traditional ’Lord Bateman’ (left unfinished without Sandy’s vocal) appears here for the very first time. Disc Two brings together all the original songs on the album in an acoustic setting. Beginning with further rare demos from last year’s boxed set including: ‘The Sea Captain’, ‘The Optimist’, Wretched Wilbur’, ‘Crazy Lady Blues’ and an accappella demo of the traditional ‘Lord Bateman’, worked on during the album sessions. Also included are a further two traditional songs recorded for the BBC during this period, firstly ‘The Lowlands of Holland’ from a BBC session recorded for Bob Harris (sequenced here with another two BBC session performances of ‘Late November’ and ‘Blackwaterside’). And ‘Bruton Town’ taken from a BBC recording of Sandy ‘In Concert’, recorded at the Paris Theatre in March 1972 where the title track from the album, ’John The Gun’ and ‘Next Time Around’ are also performed.”

Watch live performances here of ” The North Star Grassman and the Ravens”, “Crazy Lady Blues” and “Late November” here (this is not embeddable, unfortunately).


Meanwhile, the very same day, Richard Thompson releases a four CD, 80-track box set entitled Live At the BBC, the tracklisting for which can be seen here. Many of the tracks feature his then-wife Linda.

A fine song for the road


…why is it there aren’t many British road songs?

Or is it simply that because of the size of the Countries that make up the UK, there isn’t much uncharted territory?

Either way, Richard Thompson aimed for this to be an English road song, and researched it, and still has the requisite amount of love, tragedy and adventure. He is an utter legend, and if you haven’t heard this song before, you are in for a treat…

The title of the song refers to a very rare English motorbike, or so I’m told.

Richard Thomspon -‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning.’ mp3

Just to keep you posted…

Just in case anyone’s wondering where I’ve gone…I’m still here, still alive…just a little busy and not in Scotland for a couple of days.

But do yourselves a favour, or indeed two:

Firstly, Song, By Toad has excelled himself and had the fabulous Broken Records in for a session, so get yourselves over there now to Song, By Toad

Secondly, Steve over at Teenage Kicks has done excellent posts on the Shop Assistants and Motorcycle Boy, so if you enjoy your eighties indie and John Peel, get over there!

I spent much of yesterday on a train, reading Iain Banks’ The Steep Approach To Garbadale and listening to my iPod. This fantastic tracks started my journey:

Primal Scream -‘Velocity Girl.’ mp3

…though this is one of the few UK road tracks I know:

Richard Thompson -‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning.’ mp3

‘Scuse me, son…

But I heard it was valentine’s day and even that couldn’t get you to comment on Cat Power or Aberfeldy!

Tut tut…

In an attempt to let people get their hands on it again, I have reposted the final two tracks off the C86 cassette here:

The Shrubs -‘Bullfighter’s Bones.’ mp3 THIS LINK NOW FIXED

Wedding Present -‘This Boy Can Wait (A Bit Longer!).’ mp3 THIS LINK NOW FIXED

and here’s a view tracks that really should be heard:

Only Ones -‘Another Girl, Another Planet.’ mp3

Richard Thompson -‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning.’ mp3

Darling Buds -‘Uptight.’ mp3

Wherever you may be, hope you’ve had a good day. I’m still enjoying my new job and will be even happier when spring comes…