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Richard Thompson
Cologne, Germany 29.05.2000

Shoots out the lights

Okay, Richard Thompson is not exactly the kind of performer you'd expect to get reviewed in our Luna Kafe, I guess, but then again, a guy who's been a well-respected performer and, most of all, songwriter, for the last 30 years, whose 1991 Tribute album Beat The Retreat on Capitol Records featured contributions by the likes of R.E.M., Bob Mould, Evan Dando, Shawn Colvin and X among many others, can't be that bad, right?

And indeed, with tonight's acoustic performance at Cologne's Gloria Theater he proved how influential (and simply staggering) his songs and guitar playing are. Richard's sole compadre on stage was his longtime bass player Danny Thompson - hell, the two of them backed Nick Drake (!) back in the days... - but the rest of the band wasn't missed at all. They opened their almost two-hour show at the Gloria with two cuts from the recent Thompson epic Mock Tudor; Sights And Sounds Of London Town and Bathsheba Smiles (he played five songs off the album throughout the night) and it was the latter's unashamed rock 'n' roll rhythm and Richard's performing antics that made you realize where Bob Mould got all the ideas for his brilliant 1989 Workbook album from. (Not surprisingly, Mould also covered a Thompson tune touring said album). I guess Mock Tudor was sort of a comeback for Thompson (perhaps because it was produced by noted Beck/Elliott Smith/Mary Lou Lord soundsmiths Schnapf and Rothrock) and the show proved that, because the new songs were received as enthusiastically by the crowd as the "golden oldies", like Al Bowlly's In Heaven.

Thompson dedicated The Uninhabited Man to Brain Wilson, Syd Barrett and Peter Green ("What do they have in common? - No brains left", joked Richard) and even made fun of the German soccer team by saying something along the lines of: "We're gonna kick your ass at the European Cup this time", to which Danny replied: "No, they are gonna have their penalties and win AGAIN". Very funny.

The real highlight of the show was Richard's short two-song solo spot halfway through, though. When Danny left the stage someone in the audience requested From Galway To Graceland and Thompson replied "Hmmm, maybe if I get really desperate we'll get to that", which, I thought, was a very polite way of saying 'there's no chance whatesoever that I play that song'. Anyway, the first solo song was a perfect rendition of what is probably his best song ever, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning (off 1991's Rumour And Sigh LP), complete with an amazing solo and just as I thought it couldn't get any better, he followed it up with - no kidding - From Galway To Graceland! And it sounded a lot better than the rendition on the Watching The Dark Box Set, less folky, more straightforward - made grown men weep. Earlier in the show people had shouted out for some of his biggest hits to which Thompson - who seemed to enjoy himself throughout the night and talked quite a bit - replied, smiling: "Later! Later! We gotta safe them for the grande finale!" Which arrived soon after Danny had returned to the stage when the two closed the main set with very welcome renditions of a Wall Of Death and another personal favourite of mine, Turning Of The Tide. But of course they returned for an encore and first of all declined to do the audience's request Beeswing, because "it's too hard to do" (thank god that at least Mary Lou Lord is covering the song if the maestro himself won't do it anymore!). But since Richard played his biggest ever hit, Shoot Out The Lights instead, it didn't really matter. The duo closed with a rocking Valerie (from his 1986 album Daring Adventures) and even though a friend of mine later jokingly said 'There were about 40 or 50 songs missing from the set', it really was a mighty fine show. The lack of instrumental variety was replaced with the very funny inbetween song banter, which proved that despite his reputation as a SERIOUS musician, Thompson is not only an amazing guitarist, but also a pretty good entertainer. Which is all you can ask for, really.

Copyright © 2000 Carsten Wohlfeld e-mail address

You may also want to check out our Richard Thompson articles/reviews: Acoustic Classics, Dream Attic (Deluxe Edition), Electric, Still.

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