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Floral Pavilion, New Brighton (Merseyside)

13 August 2009

Richard Thompson

One of the reasons for going was my son had put a Richard Thompson album on his birthday list and was intrigued as to whether he had discovered a musical gem that I had missed out on.

With a strong folk tradition in the borough, this travelling troubadour was bound to get a decent audience in the refurbished Floral Pavilion.

But Thompson is more than a folk artist. In times past before the newspapers and TV, it would be the Richard Thompsons who would, through music, tell us about the trials and tribulations of the day. And this is why he is almost a household name.

Instead of droning on about fields of barley though, Thompson takes us to places we have known in our lives. He is the Jimmy McGovern of rock.

Who else in this over-crowded cauldron of X Factor wannabes, could get away with singing a sea shanty? Imagine Simon Cowell's face for one moment. The difference between Thompson's and anything you will find be warbled diligently at the nearby Maritime Museum is that this guy is writing about now not then.

Johnny's Far Away is a narrative on a muso who goes away to work with a Céilidh band on a themed Celtic cruise ship while his missus cops off back at home. The humour comes from the familiarity with this albeit bizarre take on modern infidelity.

Hots for the Smarts was another piece of observational humour revealing Thompson's fetish for intelligent woman who wear glasses.

Relationships feature more highly in the set than I had ever imagined for one not completely with his back catalogue. The melodic lament I Misunderstood summed up the lack of communication between genders with the infectious hook, "I thought she was saying good luck but she was saying goodbye."

Instead of a cabaret of hit singles that many artists of his generation rely upon for kicks, Thompson can instead take us down light fantasies and dark alley ways.

One minute we are seduced by the beautiful Sunset Song with the capo strapped half way to sound like a mandolin, and the next we are swung round by our ghoulies with the macabre anti war messages in Dad's Going to Kill Me.

But Thompson is not just an insightful song writer, his guitar playing is vastly underrated. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning is endowed with the most accomplished rhythmical shredding this side of the pond bar none. No effects, no band to mask any errors in the fiddly bits, the song rattled along at a breathtaking pace.

Two schools of thought on the ticket price. I wouldn't begrudge a talent like Richard Thompson his days at the seaside. But Asia were on at the same theatre for around the same money. Leonard Cohen wanted £50 for a show at the Liverpool Echo Arena so I guess it's all relative.

Apart from that, it all goes to show that sons can teach their dads a thing or two about musical taste. Lesson learnt.

Review by Keith Thompson

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