Richard Thompson’s Meltdown Festival – Night One – Cabaret of Souls
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London’s ten day long Meltdown Festival is curated each year by a different luminary. They mix it up, including: David Bowie, Ornette Coleman, Patti Smith, Massive Attack, Morrisey, and now in 2010 Richard Thompson. Today was Day One. While jet lag has me deep in its grip, I felt very lucky, indeed, to be one of the few people who have had the chance to witness this perfectly Thompsonian creation.
“To celebrate the launch of Meltdown the Southbank Centre presents the thrilling European premier of Cabaret of Souls, arguably Richard Thompson’s finest work to date.
With new songs and an original score written by Richard Thompson himself, this witty musical satire on human foibles takes place in the Underworld and features riveting performances by Thompson himself as well as premier bassist Danny Thompson, Harry Shearer (the Simpsons, Spinal Tap),
Judith Owen, Debra Dobkin, Pete Zorn and a 10 piece string ensemble conducted by Peter Askim. ”
The link will take you to video from a previous performance of this ambitious “folkatorio”.
On my way into the venue hall, I ambled by the Shifting Sands free bandstand show. My heart soared – already awash in great music.
I photographed the first few songs of the set and then took my seat in the audience. This piece was so perfectly my cup of tea. Well, pretty much everything Richard Thompson does counts in that cup, but this grand, complex, diverse piece, written with bassist Danny Thompson in mind, had… more. It had history and form, wit and savage satire, beauty and virtuosity, humor and maybe even some hidden tenderness. Each voices and instruments traded the aural spotlight, all sublime, all expressive, each performer a master of their craft. Mr. Thompson himself was in fine form, brimming with energy. It will be a crime if a recording of it never sees the light of day.
Comments overheard on the way out (I think this needs to be a regular feature) ranged from:
“Did you like it?” “Well, yes, I actually did.”
“It was the most incredible thing I have ever heard in my life!”, complimented by a deep and joyous laugh.
I hope, dear reader, that you get a chance to enjoy it in the not to near future… especially if your tastes run to the dark but humane.