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In concert: Richard Thompson at 9:30 Club

richard thompsonRichard Thompson can what few others can with a guitar. (All photos by Kyle Gustafson/FTWP)

By Dave McKenna

Richard Thompson plays a Fender Stratocaster. That's the most common guitar make and model in rock history. But Thompson gets tones out of his Strat that nobody else ever has. At the 930 Club on Tuesday, Thompson showcased his array of bent chords and tremelo'd bass notes and whatever else goes into his stupid human trick musicianship.

Thompson is touring behind "Dream Attic," a batch of new and depressing songs recorded live at a Seattle club. And in the first of two sets, Thompson and the same quartet that backed him on the CD played the whole macabre record, from "Sidney Wells," which tells of the prison murder of a murderer, to "Crime Scene," which goes all "CSI" while describing the ghoulish setting of a violent killing, to "A Brother Slips Away" a Southern gospel-ish ballad about the non-violent (whew!) death of friends. "Stumble On", the prettiest song of the fresh batch, dealt with moving on after a crushing romantic breakup. (But at least the emphasis was on survival!)

richard thompson

"All the happy songs are in the second set," Thompson said during the opening gorefest. While soloing throughout the new and, to the fans, unfamiliar material, Thompson delivered the array of guitar noises that his crowd expects, meaning a blizzard of notes that in combination fall sonically somewhere between a church organ and a whale's mating call. The only consistency in his picking was that it's never less than utterly fascinating, and thoroughly Richard Thompsonesque.

He came back for a second set of oldies that thrilled the oldies in the audience. Highlights included a cover of Emitt Rhodes' "Time Will Show the Wiser," a pop song that Thompson recorded with Fairport Convention the in 1960s, and "Wall of Death" and "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight" from his peerless period in the '70s and '80s with ex-wife Linda Thompson.

As fans left the club they were offered a chance to buy Thompson's songbook, complete with guitar tablature to help them sound just like their hero. Ain't gonna happen.

richard thompson

richard thompson

richard thompson

richard thompson

By Click Track  | October 20, 2010; 2:58 PM ET
Categories:  In concert  | Tags:  Richard Thompson  
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I always like reviews that leave you wondering if the person liked the concert or not. To me, the comment "and whatever else goes into his stupid human trick musicianship." seems like a negative. The other comments basically seem to say that Thompson has a unique sound, which is true, but the review seems to suggest that that sound isn't neccessarily a good one.

Not to be picky about facts, but...
"While soloing throughout the new and, to the fans, unfamiliar material" the CD came out the end of August, so no, we were familiar with the material.
"recorded live at a Seattle club" according to his website, the CD was recorded in about 6 or 7 venues on the West Coast, and I think most of them were recorded at the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco.
I don't know if all of the second set can be considered "oldies<" as there were a few from "Sweet Warrior," which was released in 2008.

Posted by: proflandry | October 20, 2010 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Poor Mr. McKenna. Apparently, someone took his cat hostage and forced him to go into a room full of elderly people to listen to a ghoul celebrate the macabre while making music that sounded like a monkey being strangled. Or at least, that is what it sounds like from his review.

I've been trying to get out to hear more music lately, and it is amazing to hear how many bands have 1) a singer that can't sing, 2) a guitarist that can't play anything but a few chords, and 3) nobody in the band that can write a memorable song. In contrast, Richard Thompson has excelled at all 3 for several decades. I couldn't make out a lot of the lyrics, but if I had, I probably would have enjoyed his often grim sense of humor. As it was, I enjoyed listening to one of the finest guitarists I have ever heard, one whose leads fit in perfectly as part of the song rather than being mere pyrotechnic displays which distract from it. He may have gotten carried away once or twice, such as at the end of "Tear-Stained Letter", but even then it was great to hear a real guitarist in action. His folk-rooted rock really doesn't sound like anyone else, and the band was tight, as one would expect.

I hope Mr. McKenna's cat was safely returned.

Posted by: MyPostID27 | October 20, 2010 11:56 PM | Report abuse

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