Richard Thompson – Toad’s Place (New Haven, CT)
Isn’t this the stuff we overthrew circa 1770s colonial revolts? The technically proficient Brits and their mordant reels and jigs, which they’ll update for lucre, and the one hundred or fewer who statue stood in front of this man, Thompson, not booing or shouting scurvy but entombed in their short brain plasticity to paltry veneration. A pox upon it. Where was the character assassination of the king’s men at this musical taxing? For years now Thompson has been better than Clapton, and what does that get you except the lowered expectations of a cult, democracy repo men, and an over-tithed EC world tour T-shirt? We want royalty and we want to rebel against it, and damned if he doesn’t burnish that dialectic himself.
Sir Richard has his own genealogical tree in the invention of human sound altered into electrified guitar. Thompson’s songcraft is human stain with his imprecations, curses and misanthropic appeal to the soiled human, and if carrying the word of that isn’t bad enough, he electrifies his lute, seals off his face, goes into trance; the bandages fall from our eyes as we see again. Short pants and english boarding school ass-whacking, diversionary hazing, the shock of him as normal sod when he speaks to audience.
Onstage for 2 hours and 45 minutes, he didn’t talk much and wonderfully the id was not much in expression, the tomes walking off the pages of E.P. Thompson’s The Making Of The English Working Class, pinioned between thantos and eros, with the former in the lead by a nag’s mile. I swear to the Christ of the Anglican church I’d shout this man down if he didn’t do so himself by pinching out eerie elongated flattened seven-nine chords (where are the bagpipes? Me swear eh ‘eard bagpipes), bars dropping into odd metrics that only drummer Dave Mattacks could telepathically catch on cue — the audience didn’t know whether to dance, holler contractual agreement for continued abstinence, imitate hammered dulcimers, or check themselves over for the plague.
Or the band (bassist Pat Donaldson, multi-instrumentalist Pete Zorn, whose voice is more multidimensional than RT) would ease into pseudo Sufi-tonal mysticism, Scots’ strathspeys, all led back to those fermenting stills in the forests (escaping the king’s tax), where the pagan rituals arch against rave-ups seemingly built on a diabetic foundation of invalid lyrics (tear-stained letter? yikes, and we’ll smash your e-mail up the snotbox hard drive too, lad) that he has built Christ’s slim thread of hope (by which to hang yourself) into a caterwauling carnival inside ancient gothic cathedral.
Centuries fall dead and piss blood upon us. The very stones themselves throw their glacial till down upon our heads. All killed.
Where’s the Kool-Aid?
Transcendence may be nothingness without limit, but the hint of evil and dissonant redemption within that void is enough to make the backstreet slide interesting freefall, and RT sounded human pathos at the canticle animal cry we pathetic offer one another. We’ll never escape the king’s church and Thompson is the master demiurge at work. It’s a Phil Dick novel. We ride the tautology: The Brits have recolonized us, exposing our folk roots, the schism between Scot-Brit and southern blues no greater or lesser than the trip inside the guitar player’s mind.
I crumble in head, sire.