The last time I saw Richard Thomson in concert, a member of the audience shouted: “Where’s Linda tonight Richard?”  Thompson replied that she was in hospital giving birth.  Linda gave birth to a daughter, Kami, who as one half of The Rails is opening tonight’s show.  The other half of The Rails is Kami’s husband, James.

The Rails play folk music that is clearly rooted in the 60’s and 70’s folk-rock music that Richard and Linda Thompson spearheaded.  However, Kami and James’ vocals are totally contemporary; no fingers are inserted into any ears at any time during tonight’s performance.  Kami is a solid, if unremarkable, rhythm guitarist.  James’ guitar skills are somewhat more impressive, pulling out several spectacular solos. Though I suppose you’d want to be a decent guitarist if Richard Thompson was your father-in-law.  I expect James had to sit some sort of guitar exam before being granted Kami’s hand in marriage.

We are treated to a couple of songs from their new EP Australia, along with several tracks from their first album Fair Warning, the title track of which is a particular stand out.  Kami and James’s voices blend effortlessly and they bring a real sense of charisma to their performance, receiving a warm reception from the audience.

After a brief intermission, Richard Thompson takes to the stage accompanied by The Rails to play That’s Enough from last year’s Family album. An evening of the three playing and singing together would be a fine night out but it’s not what we are here for tonight.  Thompson is in Electric Trio mode and so The Rails take their leave and are replaced by Michael Jerome on drums and Taras Prodaniuk on bass.  Thompson swaps his acoustic for a Strat and the Trio get stuck into All Buttoned Up from Thompson’s new album Still, Sally B from 2013’s Electric album and another from Still, Broken Doll.  For Shame Of Doing Wrong from 1975’s Richard and Linda Thompson album Pour Down Like Silver, channels Clapton, Bruce and Baker in all their cream power trio glory.

An acoustic interlude provides temporary relief from the electric onslaught. Meet On The Ledge takes us right back to Thompson’s beginnings in Fairport Convention and a dazzling Vincent Black Lightning shows that even on acoustic guitar, Thompson is electrifying.  To make up for a slightly flubbed vocal he treats us to an extended solo section. One of my all-time favourites, Al Bowley’s In Heaven, sees the band wander into jazz trio territory while Guitar Heroes allows Thompson to pay tribute to his influences by playing in the styles of Django Reinhardt, Les Paul, Chuck Berry, James Burton and Hank Marvin. “I still don’t know how my heroes did it” he sings, but he is being unduly modest. Guitar Heroes may be a novelty song, and Chris Spedding had the idea first on his Guitar Jamboree track years ago, but it’s still entertaining stuff.

There is nothing here tonight from Richard and Linda’s classic I Want To See The Bright Lights Tonight album but we do get a brace of tracks from their epically bleak Shoot Out The Lights: Did She Jump Or Was She Pushed and Wall Of Death.

We’re treated to 2 encores, the highlights of which are a dizzying Tearstained Letter which I am almost certain features a tiny fragment of Julius Fucik’s Entrance Of The Gladiators – you know it, it’s that tune they always play at the circus – and a cover of Otis Blackwell’s Daddy Rolling Stone – an early Who B-side.

Electric or acoustic, solo or trio, however you see Richard Thompson, you are guaranteed a great evening’s entertainment.

John Scott

 

 

 

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