Richard Thompson Arcata 12/1/06
This note came in today from my friend Gus Mozart, a very serious Richard Thompson fan (and a KHSU deejay among other things).
The photo came from concert photographer John Chapman (who sat right behind me at the
show) via CenterArts.
Gus (aka Russ) writes:
> I posted this to the RT discussion list, and thought y'all might like to read it. If you were there, you know of what I speak! If you missed it...... sorry!
> best, russneversleeps
"A holiday, a holiday..."
Mr. Thompson has certainly earned one.
His touring schedule for 2006 ended Friday evening with a truly phenomenal performance at the Van Duzer Theater at Humboldt State University. I've seen Richard close to 50 times, beginning in 1985, and this was easily one of the finest solo shows I've seen him do.
Obviously rested from the Hawaii trip, and in prime condition after the 3 night run at Montalvo, he didn't coast for one second of his 2 hour set. He opened and closed the show with new songs, both of them worthy additions to his prodigious songbook. In the last dozen years ago, he has started almost every show I've attended with new material. I've always been struck by the audaciousness of this move - generally, an artist wants to pull the listener in with something "up", and preferably instantly recognizable. Yet Richard doesn't play that game. Whether it's because he is simply being true to himself as an artist, believing as he does in the strength of his work, or just being playfully obstinate, either way, it's ballsy!
I might be disappointed by this habit, except that every time I hear these new tunes, I'm always bowled over. "Poppy Red" was gorgeous, and a perfect way to begin an exquisite evening of song by one of the best singer-songwriters on the face of the earth.
"Crawl Back" was riveting. He did a long guitar solo in the middle, very different than anything I'd heard him do on this song -- It was jagged, prickly, even a little odd, and I loved it. Then, at the end, when he repeats "crawl back", his voice built in intensity until he was roaring. It was an absolutely thrilling moment. A co-worker of mine, who'd never heard a note of Richard's music, was in tears.
"Oh my god, he's incredible!" she said at the end of it. Yep.
The second new one, "'Dad's Gonna Kill Me" was as great as I'd heard. A moving depiction of a soldiers' experience... stuck in a place he doesn't want to be, and can't get out of. This song, along with Tom Waits' recent "Road To Peace", are two examples of a new breed of songs inspired by the conflict in Iraq. Sad that war has to be the source of such inspiration, but perhaps when people hear these tales sung, more hearts and minds will be opened to the futility of this stupid military mess.
And what did he follow that with? A witty ditty like "Hots For The Smarts". I'd heard this once before, and only thought it okay, but RT was on a roll. He delivered verse after verse with comic timing, and the audience was thoroughly charmed. A broken string brought a singalong with "Sam Hall". "Persuasion" was lovely. "Vincent".... He does this virtually EVERY NIGHT, and it's STILL amazing. How he manages to make it sound fresh each time, I don't know. It's a tribute to his excellence as a performer.
I hadn't heard that he'd started doing "Matty Groves" recently, so I was
pretty surprised when he actually did it. Another epic story, expertly presented. Classic Fairport from the man himself, when you thought you'd never, ever hear him play it.
Then, the "1,000 Years portion of the set: "Shenandoah" was sung with such wrenching emotion. Breath taking. "Oops!" absolutely rocked, and he did the Britney-hand-movements around his eyes at it's close, which was hilarious. Pardon me if I don't relay a more detailed accounting of the set, and encores, because I'll run out of superlatives. Suffice to say that everything was superb.
Except I have to mention "Sunset Song". I'd read a few things posted on the discussion list about this song, but I was not prepared for how stunning it was. Wow. A beautiful melody,shifting timbre in unexpected ways. A lilting, heart breaking guitar figure that propels that melody. And lyrics that convey a wistful,longing, sadness, that, while melancholy, leave you with a warmth, and an ache, at the fragile and fleeting beauty of life.
The next album is going to be a real keeper!
> Poppy Red
> Walking On A Wire
> Crawl Back
> Down Where The Drunkards Roll
> 'Dad's Gonna Kill Me
> Hots for the Smarts
> I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight
> (broken string) jokes / Sam Hall
> How Will I Ever Be Simple Again?
> Cooksferry Queen
> Matty Groves
> So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo
> I Feel So Good
> Cold Kisses
> (encore 1)
> 1 Door Opens
> Dimming of the Day
> (encore 2)
> Wall of Death
> Sunset Song
> (pre-show soundcheck)
> Goin' Back
> Withered and Died
> Drinking Wine Spodie-Odie