Mixing wit and musical wisdom, Richard Thompson is a winner
Orpheum Theatre, July 22, 2003
By Jeffrey B. Remz
BOSTON - Richard Thompson enjoyed his stint on a major label, Capitol, where he enjoyed some commercial and definitely critical success. But in the wake of the major reshuffling throughout the industry, Thompson found himself on the sidelines.
He resurfaced a few months ago with "The Old Kit Bag," a generally strong album continuing in the same melodic, intelligent adult rock vein for which he has been known, licensed to the small SpinArt label.
Thompson, long ago a mainstay of the seminal British folk rock group Fairport Convention, has shown his musical prowess time and again and did so again before a packed house.
Thompson merges a strong vocal sense, excellent guitar playing and a very genial stage presence with a host of very strong melodies.
Thompson mixed about half a dozen songs from the new album with his better known songs during the 130-minute show. The new songs did not suffer in comparison.
The new "Gethsemane" was the second song of the night and slightly juiced up from the album. "I'll Tag Along" is vintage Thompson: a good hook and bouncy song. And he did justice to various chestnuts like the muscular opener "Tear Stained Letter," "Shoot Out the Lights" and "Misunderstood" with its refrain "I thought she saying good luck/she was saying goodbye."
In addition to being of strong vocal presence, Thompson's plays a very fine guitar, whether acoustic or electric. He also was capably aided by multi-instrumentalist Pete Zorn, who was particularly adept on sax and mandolin, drummer Al Hardin and bassist Rory McFarland.
Thompson let the band stretch out the songs, often allowing them to build. A few times, though, the songs tended to stretch out a bit too long.
One aspect of any Thompson concert that can be taken to the bank is his steadfast ability to positively interact with the crowd. Yes, they are adoring fans, of course, but Thompson's stage comments and antics make for a warm, enjoyable evening.
After a few songs, Thompson addresses the crowd. "It's been a long period of avoidance," he "confessed." "It wasn't personal."
In reality, it wasn't all that long since Thompson hit Boston. And given another top performance, he needn't worry about having a base here no matter what label he is on.
The Cash Brothers from Toronto, whose second album on Rounder drops in August, opened with a pleasing half-hour set of roots-oriented music. Their possess good songs, strong harmonies and a good stage presence to make for a winning evening of music.