A while back, Kate and I saw Richard Thompson play a solo acoustic show at The Egg in Albany. Last night, he was back in town, this time with a band, touring in support of his new album, Sweet Warrior. Here are the band credits from the program:
Michael Jerome: drums, percussion
Taras Prodaniuk: electric bass guitar
Pete Zorn: baritone, alto & sopranino saxes, bass flute, mandolin, acoustic guitar, vocals.
I'd like to officially nominate Pete Zorn for the vacant title of "Hardest Working Man in Show Business," as some of the songs required him to play the sax, then sing backup, then go back to the saxophone, all during the chorus. It's not often that one of the backing musicians seems to be having a rougher night than the lead singer, but Zorn did an amazing amount of stuff in this show, and he did it all well.
He's done a couple of acoustic albums since his last record with a full band, leading to a fair bit of hype around the record. This seems a little odd, because, really, 2003 isn't that long ago, but the theme of the concert really seemed to be "I have an electric guitar, and I'm not afraid to use it," so maybe there's something to that.
They opened with four straight songs off the new record, with a promise to "play the hits later," but other than a couple of really obvious hit songs-- an acoustic "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" (which continues to be one of the most impressive feats I've heard-- I would swear there were two guitars playing on that song, but he does it all by himself), a very angry electric version of "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," and "Wall of Death" near the end of the set-- this was a pretty eclectic set. I may have known more than half of the songs he played, but not by much.
There was a strong emphasis on the faster and louder songs from his catalogue, both from the new record and older stuff, and even the relatively quiet songs tended to have an edge-- "One Door Opens" off The Old Kit Bag is one of the few that I recognized (it was introduced as "dance music of uncertain ethnicity"). They played eight of the fourteen songs off the new album, and more or less the ones you'd expect to work well live-- "Dad's Gonna Kill Me," "Needle and Thread," "Bad Monkey," "Mr. Stupid."
Thompson's guitar playing was, as you would expect, amazing, and while there wasn't quite as much stage patter as when we saw him solo, what there was was still terrific. He played two acoustic songs in the middle of the set, the obligatory "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," and the second was a request shouted from the audience while he was re-tuning for the next song. There was also a lengthy introduction for a sea song, talking about some Pirates of the Caribbean themed record that he contributed to, which includes songs from a long list of artists, and there was some back-and-forth with audience members who were calling names out. Apparently, the Pope is a mean washboard player.
On the whole, a very good show. I was a little disappointed to see that they didn't sell out, but I think the crowd that normally buys tickets for the Egg is probably more interested in his acoustic material. Which is a shame, because the new record is really pretty solid, and the songs work really well live.
I'd recommend going to see the show but, well, only if you're in Europe-- this was the last date in the US, and the tour moves to the other side of the pond in a couple of weeks. Of course, if you happen to be in Europe anyway, you might want to check it out...
Thompson is one of the most impressive solo guitar players, as well as a songwriter and performer. I've yet to see him live with a band.
He ranks with Bruce Cockburn and Tommy Emanuel as folks that make me wanna put the damn guitar down....
I'm not sure anyone who's only familiar with half the songs is qualified to write a review. The restraint you showed in your praise doesn't indicate a musical sophistication as much as it does your gooberism.
I'm not sure anyone who's only familiar with half the songs is qualified to write a review.
I'm sorry, I only listen to negative commentary from people who have read my entire blog, from the very first post.
Found this post via the collection of review links at RT's site, and was pleasantly delighted to see your name on it! E and I were at the show, too, and thought it was fantastic. I'd seen Richard with his band before, in '04 at Toad's Place in New Haven, but E had only ever seen him doing the solo acoustic "1000 years stuff, so this was a double treat -- I got to dig the show, and watch E dig the show too. :-)
I missed him at the Egg this time, but saw him and Danny there in October 2005. Nice hall but it wasn't sold out that time either. I would have gone to see him this time, since it was his last stop before a month in England, but the concert was billed as a "members only" show and I didn't have the means to pony up for a membership on top of the ticket price. Besides, I saw him in Pittsburgh the previous week, where he gave a spectacular show.
This tour is definitely being billed as an all out electric guitar show; the album is being promoted that way too. But, if you listen to the live CDs available from RT's website, you'll quickly realize that, when he plays with the band, that it pretty much is a guitar onslaught. That's what he's come to deliver because his most vocal fans seem to expect it. He's a performer with two facets -- the quieter stuff for his solo and duo shows and the blazing guitar stuff for his band outings.
You're extremely lucky that he comes so frequently to the Albany area. I have _yet_ to see him in my home town.
Thanks to for the good review. What did he play with VBL (the shouted request)?
Found this post via the collection of review links at RT's site,
OK, that's just freaky. And yet, there it is...
If I'd known you guys were going to be there, I would've looked for you to say hi. I did see a guy I play basketball with, who I had also run into at the previous show.
What did he play with VBL (the shouted request)?
I didn't catch the title when it was shouted, and I didn't recognize the song, but the Times Union review identifies it as "Devonside."
I've got a list of new songs to look for on iTunes, now...