Concert Review – Richard Thompson @ The Sage, Gateshead
3 Mar 2013
A settled hush fell over the concert hall as the lights darkened and Richard Thompson, accompanied by the two members of his new band, walked in from stage left. A short pause, then warm applause erupted and a bashful looking Thompson bedecked in his traditional beret and signature neck scarf raised an eyebrow and wry smile at the reception. With red Stratocaster strapped on and a glance and nod at his compatriots a sharp drum beat and he was off.
The opening three songs of Stuck On The Treadmill, Sally B and Salford Sunday were taken at a blistering pace as Thompson spat out guitar riffs and hypnotic runs up and down the guitar neck. Choosing to open with songs all from his new album Electric is a testament to just how proud he is of this material which is rightly garnering some great reviews on both sides of the Atlantic. As he sang the lyrics of life working on the shop floor (or soon not to have such a job), the enigmatic Sally and life in a Northern town the audience were with him as one enjoying the ride.
Pausing for breath to inform his fans that it was time for something from the ‘70s he launched into For The Shame Of Doing Wrong from the Pour Down Like Silver album, that he recorded with his then wife Linda in 1975. This set the scene for a great evening of music as almost without pause for nearly two hours a grateful audience were treated to a journey through the luxury of a folk/rock legend, singer/songwriter extraordinaire and well loved perfomer taking us through his back catalogue. Al Bowly’s In Heaven Now and Easy There, Steady now were performed on acoustic guitar, but Thompson was in an electric mood tonight as he quickly reverted to Strat again for Good Things Happen to Bad People one of the new album’s stand outs. Commenting that he had been playing for nearly an hour without a murder ballad, Thompson and band launched into a hair curling Sidney Wells the tale of a lorry driving serial killer who meets a grisly end from his Dream Attic album. It was during this song that I felt the band had exceeded Folk/Rock and moved into a new art form that could only be called Folk/Jazz, as each musician kept scaling musical mountains again and again. It was just wonderful. From the 1980 classic album Shoot Out The Lights we were treated to a rousing Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed.
I should take time to mention the other two people who added greatly to the evening. Michael Jerome on drums and Californian Taras Prodaniuk on bass. A tight band you would expect with an artist of Richard Thompson’s stature, but to have one as sympathetic and at one with the music is a treat.
A breath taking Wall Of Death and Love Whispers Your Name ended the show…sort of. Returning quickly alone the encores were a mini concert of their own. Responding to shouted requests for Beeswing and Galway to Graceland (both played exquisitely – with the aside ”I know the last record you bought”) There then followed a second encore as he returned with the band. A wag shouted for Freebird but Thompson had other ideas as he mused of wanting to be in a power trio rock band and launched into a terrific interpretation of Cream’s White Room! After a glorious Stony Ground and the last notes of Tear Stained Letter faded away, a quick bow with the band and they were gone…to fully deserved rapturous applause.