Truth to be told, Thompson remains enjoyable
The Paradise, Boston, November 14, 2018
Reviewed by Jeffrey B. Remz
The Richard Thompson Electric Trio had barely hit the stage, and already something was awry. Thompson thought it so obvious that he addressed the issue head on with the sold-out crowd right after opening with "Bones of Gilead," one of the best cuts on his new disc.
"I know what you're thinking," said the veteran English performer. "This is a very large trio."
Ah, the wit of Thompson showed no signs of slowing down as he ages (he's now 69). The reason was that the trio was augmented by a fourth person - Thompson's road manager and guitar tech, who played here and there throughout the show.
So, while Thompson may have been guilty of truth in advertising, one thing that has not changed for Thompson over the course of five decades is that the songs, musicianship and stage persona are at a very high level.
Thompson may have been first identified with British folk rock band Fairport Convention (Thompson would play two songs from Fairport - "Tale in Hard Time" and "Meet on the Ledge" over the course of two hours, with the latter one that the band never played live - "maybe it wasn't a very good song," joked Thompson with his typical deadpan humor), but by and large, that's not what this evening of music was about.
The "electric" part in his band title pretty much said it all. This version of Thompson veered far more towards rock. With bass (Taras Prodaniuk) and drums (Michael Jerome) behind him, Thompson was stellar on electric, although he performed on acoustic as well. Thompson was a dexterous musician, often taking the songs for lengthy, intense, often musical musical rides. He showed his knowledge of axe men with the appropriately title "Guitar Heroes," which referenced everyone from Django Reinhardt to Chuck Berry to The Shadows' Hank Marvin.
Thompson's baritone has aged remarkably well over the years, showing no signs of wear and tear. He's easy on the ears with his vocals mixed way high for most of the show.
As for the material, Thompson has not been one to rest on his laurels. Yes, the crowd was on the older side, but they weren't all there to hear the older material (in fact, one request to play "Shoot Out the Lights" was met with a shake of the hand by Thompson indicating he wasn't into playing that).
Thompson was more than happy to push his 18th studio release, "13 Rivers," which dropped in September, starting with "Bones of Gilead" and "Her Love Was Meant For Me." He would end up playing songs from throughout his career and a few he recorded with ex-wife Linda Thompson as well.
But this was not necessarily going to be trip down memory lane. Yes, he played the always welcome "1952 Vincent Black Lightnin" and the upbeat, ultrafast "Tear Stained Letter," which closed out the regular set. But that did not define the evening.
Thompson may not have always been telling it straight when it came to what his latest group is about, but rest assured the truth was that Thompson remains one enjoyable performer.
The Sisters of Slide opened with a welcome set of blues-based material. The Sisters are lead singer Rory Block, a veteran blues singer, and Cindy Cashdollar on steel. Block handled all the vocals with the duo turning in a short set of songs from the likes of Muddy Waters and Mississippi John Hurt.
There was a sense of history in Block talking about the songs. While Block was on the intense side, there was a lot to be said for their effort at keeping the blues alive.