Thursday, July 26, 2012

Review:Richard Thompson & Anais Mitchell,The Forum, Bath 25/7/ 2012

I had a great time seeing Richard Thompson in Bath last night.Here is what happened.Smithy called for me at 6.15.I jumped in the car,slammed some music into the CD player,the engine roared and we shot off down the highway towards Bath.It was a beautiful summers evening without a cloud in the sky.It only took about 40 minutes to arrive in the fine Georgian city of Bath.We parked just round the corner from the Forum.There was a huge queue of old folkies outside and we were a bit early so we went in a bar called 'The Giraffe'.
I sat outside and watched the world go by and the girls in their summer fashions.Smithy came out with two small bottles of Swedish cider."Guess how much they cost",he said."£9.20,they are having a giraffe".I don't think we will be going in there again.Anyway,time was getting on so we walked round the corner and we met Fred outside and took our seats just in time for the support act.
It was Anais Mitchell from Vermont in the USA.She was accompanied on guitar by her writing partner Michael Chorney.They performed songs from her folk opera Hadestown which is the story of Orpheus and Eurydice set in a post-apocalyptic America.The rest of her short but enjoyable set were songs from her new album called Young Man In America.Considering i had never heard of her before i thought she was great.She is also quite beautiful (See pictures).During the break we had a quick bottle of Bud from the bar and Fred and i went outside for a quick ciggie and a chat.When we went back inside Anais was sitting at the merchandise stall so i went over and had a quick little chat with her.She was really nice."Did your parents name you after Anais Nin?",i asked."Yes",she replied politely although she must have been asked that question a thousand times and corrected me on my pronunciation of Anais.I think i had my A and my I the wrong way round.I bought her new album and she signed it for me.I think we will hear a lot more from Anais Mitchell.
Then it was time for the main man.Its been 43 years since i first became aware of the work of Richard Thompson and tonight was the first time i had seen him as a solo performer live.When he sauntered on stage dressed in his trademark black beret and scarf what surprised me was the lack of guitars.I expected to see about 8 or 9 guitars,electric and acoustic on stands all across the stage but no,Richard played the same acoustic guitar all evening but boy did he play it.
The first song he did was When The Spell is Broken which is from the 80's i believe and then Walking On A Wire.His guitar playing is quite mesmerising,i don't know how he does it.I have never played a guitar in my life but Fred and Smithy both play the guitar and they were in awe of him.When he plays you would think it was two or three guitars all playing.Fred said afterwards that he is the best acoustic guitar player he has ever heard and i must say i agree with him.I have never heard anyone better.Anyway,to get back to the songs,the humorous Valerie was next followed by a song that i'm not sure what it is now.I thought it was called Haul Me Up but i have been told its not.Can anyone tell me what it was?
             As well as being possibly the best guitar player in the world Richard is also one of the best songwriters of the past 50 years.Richard followed that dark song by injecting some humour by singing a song about a ceilidh band from Liverpool called The Drones going on a cruise."Its an excuse to sing a song about sex",said Richard."Do you still have sex in Bath?,get as much as you can before they ban it".I think the song is called Johnny's Far Away On The Rolling Sea.He got the audience singing along with that one.Then someone in the audience shouted out a request for Cold Kisses."Ok,its been a long time but i'll do it.It's not as good as the one i was going to sing though.That song was brilliant".(I bet the song he left out for that was Beeswing, grrh,i hate requesters).
Then he did one of my favourites Vincent Black Lightning 1952.I bet its one of Freds favourites as well because Fred is a biker.After that he paid a very warm tribute to Sandy Denny with whom he played in Fairport Convention.Sandy in my opinion is the best female singer songwriter Britain has ever produced and Richard sang her greatest song Who Knows Where The Time Goes.
This was followed by a song i hadn't heard before called Good Things Happen To Bad People ,I think its called that anyway.(Please let me know if i have got any song titles wrong or the songs in the wrong order because i was scribbling in the dark and i'm not an expert like some).Then a song i really enjoyed called Saving The Good Stuff For You which was followed by Crawl Back Under My Stone.and then one of my favourites Pursuasion.He followed this by a song written by Frank Loesser in 1949 and sung in the film Red,Hot And Blue by Betty Hutton called Dog Eat Dog In Denmark which is full of Elizabethan street jive and reduces Hamlet to 4 verses.Again this song displayed Richards mesmerising skills on the guitar.Then an old song called The Sun Never Shines On The Poor which is very relevent for todays world as well.This was followed by Wall Of Death
 the brilliant I Misunderstood and another song with dark lyrics She Twists The Knife Again.For a cheerful chap he certainly comes up with some dark songs.Richard left the stage and when he returned another requester asked for Keep Your Distance which i didn't mind because its a great song and then it was Down Where The Drunkards Roll.Richard finished of the show with two of my favourites Time To Ring Some Changes and the exquisite Dimming Of The Day.
Back on the pavement we all agreed it had been an amazing concert and showed that Richard Thompson even at the age of 63 is still very much at the height of his powers.He is reunited with his old friends in Fairport Convention at the 45th reunion at Cropredy in a couple of weeks and on this form the fans are in for a treat.


David Tomlinson said...

Thanks for the review, Pat. I was at the Buxton gig the following night and looked on the net for a review of that - found yours of the Bath gig. Been a fan of Anais Mitchell for a while and her set was great, but Richard was on fabulous form; I've seen him many times and that was the best solo gig ever. I think his guitar work has got sharper, possibly helped by his new Lowden. The song set at Buxton was similar to Bath, but he did do Beeswing - beautifully - so you're right to slag requesters. At Buxton they were shouting for Galway to Graceland, which I hate (it's sick & in bad taste), but fortunatley Richard ignored them. Anyway, nice to read your blog and here's hoping that Richard remains our best kept secret & national treasure and keeps on gigging.

Pete said...

Fantastic show - With the amount of requests coming out he could have played all night.

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