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Richard Thompson live: dark but peerless


A belated happy new year to all - both? - Salut! Live readers. Kate Rusby's thoroughly enjoyable new album will be reviewed here soon, but first let us hear from Pete Sixsmith, who caught Richard Thompson live on the banks of the Tyne ...

The Sage, Gateshead. Jan 26 2011

A Richard Thompson show is something to look forward to – particularly if you are sat in a traffic snarl up at the Gateshead side of the Redheugh Bridge, trying to get to the Sage, while 6,000 others were struggling to get to the vast airport hangar called the Metro Arena (on the dark side of the Tyne) to see the boyband JLS.

The car was eventually deposited in the overpriced Gateshead Council car park and seats were taken a couple of minutes before Thompson and his backing band of Pete Zorn, Michael Jerome, Taras Prodaniuk and Joel Zifkin appeared on stage.

He wore his trademark beret and combat style fatigues, received a warm and generous reception and was soon swinging into the first song from Dream Attic.

He told the audience they would do the whole album in the first half of the show and that the second half would be made up of his hits “with a small h”.

This met with the approval of the now full house and we were treated to his tribute to a certain Tyneside milkman’s son (allegedly) in Here Comes Geordie. At the end he apologised to the audience, although he presumed (correctly) that Sunderland supporters would have enjoyed it. We did.


Dream Attic - which can be bought via Salut! Live by clicking here - is not a cheerful album and the dark side of Thompson’s character dominates it. It’s got a Nick Cave feel to it, with songs about serial killers (Sidney Wells) and places where awful things have happened (Crime Scene – not the Metro Arena and JLS). Even a typical Thompson rolling song like Haul Me Up sounds like a plea for help from someone struggling to drag themselves out of a personal slough.

The second half opened with a real rarity, The Angels Have Taken My Race Horse Away, from Henry The Human Fly, “the worst selling album in Warner Brothers history”, according to the man responsible for it. It’s a song I haven’t heard for ages and, with its references to Lanark Racecourse and The Lanark Silver Bell.

From a real golden oldie, he moved on through his impressive back catalogue with Al Bowlly’s In Heaven, Wall Of Death and a join-in Tear Stained Letter before finishing off with I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight.

The four of them returned for a well deserved encore and a standing ovation. No doubt JLS got the same at The Arena, but I can’t imagine that their songwriting skills or prowess on the guitar (electric and acoustic) will ever match those of this peerless musician, who is always a pleasure to see. My late and much missed friend Dave Lish, would have thoroughly enjoyed this one.


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