Gig review: Richard Thompson


WHILE zipping through a potent first half, comprising his most recent album Dream Attic played end to end, Richard Thompson and his casually excellent band performed a stealthy pagan jam, Burning Man, which was inspired by a trip to the Californian desert festival where anything goes.

It could also serve quite happily as a metaphor for the concert and Thompson's output in general. This charming folk rock vet appears to simply chuck disparate influences into the pot in cavalier fashion (anyone for a slip jig?), yet distils something cohesive and meaty, with fiddle, saxophone, flute and mandolin embellishing the overall flavour.

Thompson's guitar playing is the main attraction for many and his solos were masterful, inventive and as powerful as anything that Neil Young might unleash. As the first half drew to a close, the band called up a maelstrom with Thompson at the eye of the storm, riffing righteously with a precise yet fiery sophistication which was reminiscent of Television's Tom Verlaine.

Strangely, the second half – the one featuring the hits ("with a small 'h'") drawn from the length and breadth of his catalogue – was less satisfying, with some underwhelming choices and an anticlimactic encore. Highlights, however, included the strident, thrilling blowout at the end of Can't Win and the effortlessly beautiful folk pop songwriting of Wall Of Death, though the rollicking rock'n'folk number Tearstained Letter was the one which pleased the smitten crowd.

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