Review by Andrew Lindsay and photography by John Bentley.

Us little Gig Junkies take a trip to The Lowry in Salford to catch-up with the legend that is Richard Thompson, with support from Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker. Reviewer  Andrew Lindsay gives us five reasons to LOVE Richard Thompson.

Richard Thompson, Lowry, Salford, 19-10-17

First to take the stage are double BBC Folk Award nominees Josienne Clarke & Ben Walker with their  ageless stories of love and loss accompanied by with their exquisite command of many instruments.

Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker, Lowry, Salford, 19-10-17

Five Reasons to love a Richard Thompson Concert
The Songs
Tonight Richard rattled through twenty one numbers ranging from the much loved to the downright obscure (read ‘rarities’). His best songs are stories and they are all present and correct: ‘Beeswing’ (that aching final verse beautifully delivered); the love triangle of ‘1952 Vincent Blue Lightning’ (The Shangri-Las’ Jimmy and Betty transmuted from an American candy store to a very British Box Hill) and ‘From Galway to Graceland’, the tender tale of a middle-aged Irish woman chronically obsessed with a pop icon – “She was humming Suspicion/That’s the song she liked best/She had Elvis I love you/Tattoed on her breast”.

The ‘doom and gloom’ of a Thompson concert is reliably leavened by a smattering of the comedic: ’Crocodile Tears’; the acerbic: ‘Valerie’ with its rhymes of calorie and salary and the rousing: ‘Wall of Death’ and ‘Bright Lights’.

Richard Thompson, Lowry, Salford, 19-10-17

Thompson is promoting two new albums: Acoustic Classics II and Acoustic Rarities. The setlist is a potpourri stretching back as it does to  1967 and inevitably there are some misses (‘Right From Wrong’;  ‘Push and Shove’ still sounds like The Who). ‘Hippodrome’ hits the mark with its nostalgic lyric and change of tempo. It is a very welcome inclusion on Rarities.

The Guitar
All the songs in tonight’s solo show are played on one acoustic Lowden guitar. Clearly this is not a rock star. Nor is Thompson in ‘show-off’ mode tonight. The guitar playing serves the songs but there are still some virtuoso moments notably on ‘Valerie’ and ‘A Love You Can’t Survive’.

Richard Thompson, Lowry, Salford, 19-10-17

The Empathy
Thompson eschews encouraging sing-a-longs (perhaps he recognises that there are too many sixtysomethings with beards called Brian out there in the comfy seats of The Lowry ) his understated humour and witty banter is highly engaging and draws the audience into the heart of the show. He introduces ‘Bright Lights’ as “my last chart success which brushed the Top 40” (it made # 39 in 1974).

Being in Salford and it having rained all day he recalls that he once wrote a song about the city and gamely has a go at playing it. It is likely that this is entirely spontaneous since he can’t remember how it starts and tumbles to a halt as he forgets the ‘meaning of life’ verse. It is endearing and the hearty response encourages Thompson to “learn it for next time”.

Wry mention is also made of playing with the “old regiment” at Fairport Convention’s 50th Anniversary Show three months earlier: “…after a couple of days you realise why you left the band in the first place. I jest” he says not entirely convincingly.

Richard Thompson, Lowry, Salford, 19-10-17

The Cover Version
Thompson’s shows occasionally feature an intriguing cover version: The Who’s ‘Substitute’; Britney Spears’ ‘Oops I Did It Again’ and ABBA’s ‘Money Money Money’ spring to mind. Tonight Richard pays homage to former Fairport band mate Sandy Denny. Sandy, who died in 1978, was “one of the greatest singers ever and I don’t want her flame to die”, he tells us. Astonishingly recorded when she was just twenty ‘Who Knows Where the Time Goes?’ is an outstanding song. Thompson carries the fire and delivers his version with an eyes clenched passion unique this evening.

The Headgear
Men in Kangol black berets tend to veer toward the shy yet self possessed; eccentric and only occasionally bald:  Frank Spencer; Che Guevara; Theolonius Monk; Pablo Picasso, Richard Thompson and the existentialist Chuck Beret.  They are to be treasured.


Setlist
Gethsemane
The Ghost of You Walks
Crocodile Tears
Valerie
Persuasion
Beeswing
Push and Shove
They Tore The Hippodrome Down
1952 Vincent Black Lightning
I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight
Who Knows Where The Time Goes?
Salford Sunday
Right From Wrong
A Love You Can’t Survive
Wall of Death
King of Bohemia
I Misunderstood
Turning of the Tide
From Galway to Graceland
The Poor Ditching Boy
Meet on the Ledge.

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