I have always had great respect for the talents of Richard Thompson; however, it has been difficult for me to fully relate to this venerable British folk singer-songwriter and guitarist. His songs seemed to come from another culture. His overall sound was simply too dark and brooding for my taste. Nonetheless, his reputation amongst the rock guitarist elite is undeniable, and there are several songs in his canon that I consider classics. My only concert experience with him was a 2005 solo acoustic show at the Belcourt Theatre that left me somewhat underwhelmed. Tonight’s appearance with his electric power trio, however, presented to me a side of Richard Thompson that I found exhilarating.
There’s always a Nashville connection, and this time it is with Mr. Americana, Buddy Miller, who produced Thompson’s latest LP, Electric, right here in Nashville. In addition, just the night before in Knoxville, the Trio finished a tour as opening act for our own Emmylou Harris and Rodney Crowell. Why this tour didn’t close here in town at the Ryman instead remains a mystery. However, our loss was offset by the gain that tonight at Third and Lindsley we got a full set of Thompson’s Electric Trio rather than a truncated warm-up set.
The opening act was the lovely Lera Lynn and band who gave us a delightful set of original material with traditional country flair. I was impressed enough to put her on my list of artists to keep an eye on.
From the opening moments of the Trio’s two-hour performance, it was obvious that Richard Thompson is one of the best to ever play an electric guitar. Flawlessly and effortlessly, his left hand travelled up and down the neck caressing his Fender with a fluid execution that was graceful without being flashy. The electric power trio was a perfect vehicle for Thompson. His rhythm section was rock solid.
The Electric record was generously represented along with some of his older songs. Tonight, the Trio received some local support from special guest Siobhan Kennedy who stood far stage right most of the evening providing backing vocals, reprising her efforts from the latest record. She and Thompson made for a lovely duet on “My Enemy.” In addition, producer Buddy Miller made a brief but anticipated appearance near the end of the show as a spontaneous and unrehearsed second guitarist.
After the main set concluded, Thompson performed a two-song solo acoustic beginning with perhaps his best known number, “1952 Vincent Black Lightning.” While he failed to acknowledge that local artist Del McCoury had some success with this number, he did give nods to Jo-El Sonnier and Patty Loveless who both put “Tear-Stained Letter,” the night’s final song, on the country charts.
Thompson began his encore honoring the tradition of the rock power trio by calling out The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Creem, and The Who. His trio then nailed a version of “Hey Joe” that would have made Jimi proud. (Creem’s “White Room” was an alternate choice on his set list.) While these trios were all somewhat blues-based, Thompson’s power trio in contrast found it’s backbone in his folk roots.
After tonight, I would certainly add the Richard Thompson Electric Trio to the list of rock’s greatest power trios.
- Stuck on the Treadmill
- Sally B
- Salford Sunday
- For Shame of Doing Wrong
- My Enemy
- Can’t Win
- Al Bowlly’s in Heaven
- Easy There Steady Now
- Stony Ground
- Sidney Wells
- Did She Jump or Was She Pushed
- I’ll Never Give Up
- Wall of Death
- If Love Whispers Your Name
- I’m Saving the Good Stuff for You
- 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
- Hey Joe
- Good Things Happen to Bad People
- Tear-Stained Letter
Richard Thompson – electric and acoustic guitars and vocals
Taras Prodaniuk – bass
Michael Jerome – drums
Siobhan Kennedy – backing vocals
Buddy Miller – electric guitar