Richard Thompson intense and funny at Town Hall
"Bones of Gilead"
As usual, Richard Thompson leavened another intense concert performance with his Electric Trio with wry deadpan wit Sunday night at New York’s Town Hall, starting with his admission that it was “a bit of a large trio,” what with guitarist Bobby Eichorn present on first song “Bones in Gilead” along with regulars Michael Jerome on drums and bass guitarist Taras Prodaniuk.
Eichorn, Thompson said after ending the gripping opener with a Townshend-like jump, would reappear intermittently throughout the show, since it would cost too much to have him out there the whole time.
“Bones in Gilead” comes from Thompson’s splendid new album 13 Rivers, and was followed by another intense tune in that album’s “Her Love was Meant for Me.” But while the rest of the night would be heavy on the new stuff, Thompson next changed the pace with the slower, country-flavored “Take Care the Road You Choose,” from 2007’s Sweet Warrior, for which Eichorn returned to contribute acoustic guitar, Jerome supplying careful brushwork to go with Thompson’s beautiful solo.
From there it was an even mix of 13 Rivers songs and “quasi-hits” from Thompson’s vast catalog, from the mid-tempo “Tale in Hard Time” (a rarely performed song from his late 1960s days with seminal British folk rock band Fairport Convention) to “Wall of Death” (from the classic 1981 Shoot Out the Lights album with ex-wife Linda Thompson), “They Tore the Hippodrome Down” from Acoustic Rarities (the 2017 album didn’t sell well, Thompson said, but there were copies stored in a warehouse somewhere in Lithuania), “Can’t Win” from 1988’s Amnesia (in which Jerome pretty much matched Thompson’s guitar solo and maintained an extended and visually stunning cross-handed beat), and the ever-exhilarating set-closing “Tear-Stained Letter” (from 1983’s Hand of Kindness).
“There aren’t many,” Thompson joked in reference to his quasi-hits, though he surely added to them with the new album songs, notably also including lead track “The Storm Won’t Come.” Of course he did his most-requested “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” from Rumor and Sigh (1991), here performed on acoustic guitar, without the band but with a million meaningful guitar notes and equally precise singing.
Speaking of guitar, Thompson also played “Guitar Heroes,” his ode (from 2015’s Still) to Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, Chuck Berry, James Burton and Hank Marvin—for whom his fingers bled and he risked getting kicked out of both school and home in time-consuming devotion while attempting to imitate. Not only were his guitar impressions after every tribute verse dead-on, he ended each by transforming back into Richard Thompson, rightly assuming his place as follower and faithful equal.