Archive for March 29th, 2011

Review: Richard Thompson at Ace of Spades

Intern Parie Wood just came on board MidMo last month.  She’s a great kid- not afraid to work and already a talented singer-songwriter.  When we found out that she’d never heard folk guitar legend Richard Thompson we immediately assigned her to review the show from the unbiased perspective of the 15 year old.  -Tim Foster
Not knowing what to expect, I came into Ace of Spades at 7 o’clock on Wednesday night. It was a sold out show, and the place was packed. There were chandeliers hanging, big speakers in front, and lots of liquor being served. The other thing I noticed quickly, was that I was easily younger (by at least 30 years) than everyone else. I was one of the only people with pigment still in their hair. My daydreming and people watching was interrupted  when the Alex Nelson Trio, (the same members from the band known as Walking Spanish) came on.

The front man was a young, personable musician who sung bluesy rock songs with vivid lyrics about things like traveling, love, nature, and murder. The band sounded pretty tight, with a stand up bass and violinist to back up Nelson. After a full set of pretty agreeable but not super-exciting songs, they finished their set with a song called “Counterfeit Wishbones.”  I overheard the bassist ask Nelson if they were going to play the song, and Nelson exclaimed, “Of course!” as if he was dumb for even asking. It was a favorite of mine, and appeared to be a hit with the rest of the crowd as well. There was much more head bobbing, toe tapping, and hand clapping to this song in comparison to the others – not to say the others weren’t as good, but this song had a special type of energy to it.

After about a 15 minute break,  Richard Thompson strutted onstage wearing a black turtleneck, black pants, a black bandanna, and a black beret. The relatively quiet crowd stood up and started cheering.  Thompson grabbed his guitar, said something like, “it’s good to be back”, and broke into the first song.

Within two minutes of the first song, Thompson ripped into his first guitar solo. I finally understood the hype about him being one of the best guitar players in the world.

As a musician, (and guitarist more importantly), his tone and musical intuition blew me away. It was obvious that he had a solid foundation with scales and blues, and could bend his guitar strings like no one else. He de-tuned his guitar while playing, continuing to play in an alternate tuning without going off key or missing a single beat or note. Needless to say, I was impressed.

His band – which consisted of a phenomenal young black drummer and a quirky bassist that reminded me somewhat of Elton John – were equally as impressive. Some of my favorite parts of the show were actually the bass solos. The bassist was just entertaining in general. He wore big circular glasses, fancy shoes, and had strange facial expressions. I’m pretty sure he smiled through majority of the show. The drummer was tight, in time, and seemingly tireless. I was amazed by how synchronized with each other they were.

Thompson was also very funny and personable – he made it easy to like him. He came across as humble and free spirited, and acted, (and rocked out) like he was much younger than his age, even quoting Spinal Tap, which the audience thought was hilariously funny. He also poked fun at how bad his memory is, saying, “I’d tell you what albums all these songs are from, but I can’t remember.”   Then, after a beat, “Too many classics.”  Thompson is more concerned about the music than the image or anything else. I find that admirable in a musician.

The only thing I would say was unremarkable about his performance was his singing. The music was mind-blowing and groundbreaking, so his singing, (which was not bad, just average,) seemed plain in comparison. No one seemed to notice or otherwise care.

Most of the audience seemed to be familiar with his work, and sang, played air guitar, and drummed along to all of the songs; he seems to have quite the cult following. I asked the guy sitting next to me if he had seen him before, and he said proudly, “7 times.”  I think this is a testament to how devoted Thompson’s fans are. And understandably so. His music is funky, soulful, and jazzy, with a deep foundation in blues. There is something for everyone to like.  –Parie Wood