Last night, I had the distinct pleasure of seeing Richard Thompson in concert. It is rare to see a "rock" show so expertly executed as Thompson and his band were. Perhaps it was his decades of experience as a storyteller, perhaps it was the venue he played, but the show was just solid from start to finish. The Berklee Performance Center is acoustically designed to highlight the nuances of popular music, with a staff and crew who spend their time studying and perfecting an imperfect art. I have NEVER been to a show where the sound was so crystal clear--loud, but not distorted at all, every instrument had its place in the mix, no one piece overshadowed another, and Thompson's voice, naturally strong, rang out as if he were sitting next to me. My seat was in the very last row.
The set list was an interesting mix of his new album, Sweet Warrior, which is wonderful, and older songs. A guitar is magic in Thompson's hands, and when he picks up an acoustic guitar, the mere act of placing his fingers on the strings is enough to give you goose bumps, particularly if you are familiar enough with his back catalog to know what songs potentially could come from his fingers. His version of "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" was inspired. He also played an old Scottish sea shanty--with full band--that he contributed to "Rogue's Gallery", a compilation cd thought up by Johnny Depp to accompany the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. Sea shanty. Unbelievable. His electric guitar solos were nothing short of brilliance. I wanted to be closer simply to watch his fingers move. Solos always run the danger of becoming bombastic, inflated, superfluous, but not Thompson's. Every note added to the story he told, and he left you yearning for more. In fact, one fan did shout, "do it again" as the applause wound down. He could have played all night long.
His backing band was tight, and extremely talented, and Thompson is an engaging performer. Any between song banter was warm, and funny, and in many cases, designed to help understand the nuances of the song. Being a slightly older audience as well, there was little posturing for position or "down in front" nonsense; everyone stayed seated during the songs because he is a musician you need to LISTEN to attentively, in order to not miss the moments of beauty he has created. So glad I was finally able to enjoy one of his live performances.
Although he did not play this particular song live, it's worming its way into my brain as a particular favorite from this album.
Guns are the Tongues - Richard Thompson
UPDATE: Thank you, webmaster of Beesweb. :)