Last year, Mister and I went to see Paul McCartney in concert as part of our 20th wedding anniversary celebration. (Yes, I got married when I was 5 - thanks for asking.) This was a show I had waited for since I was an old married lady of 13, and it was just my luck American Express had a presale on the tickets. Furthermore, the tickets were under $100 each. Double score!
Anyhow, Mister and I both agreed that McCartney's show was so fantastic, we never needed to go to another concert ever again, because anyone else would pale in comparison. Except for one: Richard Thompson.
If you are a music fan and don't know Richard Thompson, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, go to Amazon.com or iTunes right now and sample some tracks. (I'll wait.) RT was a founding member of Fairport Convention when he was just a lad, and has been in the music business ever since. He's managed to set a standard for musicianship and songwriting that few have been able to meet, let alone exceed. And yet, for whatever reason, he's not a household word like, say, Taylor Swift.
Last night I got my chance to see Richard Thompson in a solo acoustic show at Nashville's historic Belcourt Theatre. We had supper right after work and got ourselves in line, which rated me a third row aisle seat - not too shabby at all. (I had already bought the tickets online back in August.) This was a mature and well-mannered crowd, not like the bad old 80s when going to a general admission concert meant you got at least one elbow in the face while jockeying for the best vantage point. No, this was a bunch of folk music enthusiasts who just wanted to hear some prime tunes.
And we did. RT did not disappoint, not once. While I'm mostly in it for the songwriting, I was blown away by his guitar playing. He didn't need a band, because he sounded like 2 people on the guitar. I'm still not convinced that he doesn't have two extra invisible hands. He played one guitar for the whole show, and he didn't change clothes forty-eleven times, and he didn't have a bevy of dancers on the stage.
One man + one guitar = one indescribably incredible musical experience. See, it can be done without glitter and theatrics.
Richard Thompson is also funny and personable. He explained that on this tour, he was asking an audience member to choose an old album title out of his Beret of Randomness, and he'd play three songs from that album. Our audience member chose You? Me? Us? which apparently wasn't a huge seller, and is hard to come by now, but the songs he chose from it were spectacular: especially "Sam Jones," about a bone collector. And you all know how much I love bones. (I was really hoping to learn this song right away for Halloween, but was thwarted when I discovered it doesn't exist in a digital download. I had to order a second-hand CD instead. Patience is a virtue, I guess.)
Of course he brought the house down with "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," which rated a standing ovation. Throughout the show, members of the small audience called out their favorites, and Thompson did his best to oblige. He also threw in at least one new song that hasn't been recorded yet, which happened to be another of my favorites of the night. Until he records it, I guess I won't get to hear it anymore unless I see his show again. Oh, what a horrible fate, Dutchy. Reckon I'll be keeping an eye on that tour schedule.
All you young whippersnappers who want to write songs - and yes, I'm talking to you, Taylor Swift - owe it to yourselves to take a few lessons from Richard Thompson. He's clever, witty, erudite, and most of all, he's his own writer. Even though he has a distinctive style, no one could ever say his songs all sound alike. Over 45 years, he's provided his fans with a wide range of incredible songs - not just his own original material, but historic folk material as well. His 1000 Years of Popular Music includes songs from the Middle Ages and 15th century along with modern-day pop hits.
Thanks, Richard. I'm a little late to the bandwagon, but I hope to be listening for another 45 years.
Till next time ---- now I just need to see Elvis Costello.