I saw Richard Thompson, accompanied by Judith Owen (vocals, piano) and Debra Dobkin (percussion, vocals), perform his 1000 Years of Popular Music set at the Corn Exchange in Cambridge (Friday January 16th).
This is a great atmospheric venue with good acoustics, but we arrived slightly after 7.30pm thanks to traffic and parking problems, to find that the show had started on the dot. We missed the first two songs and ended up in seats that weren’t the ones we’d booked, but they were good seats which is what counted.
The concept is that RT and his ensemble play songs from the ages – from Medieval to the present day. Why? A few reasons. Because he can, and few others could. Because he’s exploring his cultural history. Because he wants to introduce songs that are old but good to a new audience. Because he wants to pay tribute to the past. Because it’s a hoot. All of these.
It makes for an enjoyable evening, though it is inevitably uneven. I studied English Literature and knew some of the older songs as poems; it was good to hear them in a new context, especially with Thompson’s dry,witty introductions. I enjoyed his 19th century social comment songs, Blackleg Miner and I Live in Trafalgar Square. He caught the mood of the Kinks’ See My Friends brilliantly. His rendering of Abba’s Money Money Money is hilarious. I didn’t think he carried off the Beatles so well, though we saw some striking Beatlemania photos.
I was sorry he did not perform Oops! … I did it again (yes, the Britney Spears song) as this is one of my favourites on the CD, another ode to failed relationships.
The paradox of RT is that he is fascinated by mortality, decadence and despair, yet is among the most clean-living, disciplined and downright healthy artists out there; he is sixty this year but his voice is strong and physically he looks almost the same as he did twenty years ago, with his trademark beret.
He carries it off really well, but would I rather have heard 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, Wall of Death, and The Ghost of you Walks? I suppose I would; but at the same time kudos to RT for doing something different.
This is the set list from the day before in London (I didn’t go but it was posted to the discussion list); ours was very similar but I’ll update this post when I have the exact set list from last night.
Pipe Shepherds Pipe
When I am Laid in The Earth
Remember Thou O Man
When a Man Goes to Woe
Night and Day/Something Wonderful
All Right I’ll Sign the Papers
See My Friends
Friday on My Mind
Money, Money, Money
everybody’s Got to Learn sometime
Ja Nuls Hom Pris
Cry Me a River