Herewith the setlist from the first of three consecutive evenings with Richard Thompson at Alexandria, Virginia's Birchmere (but the only one I'll be attending... someone else'll have to do the trainspotting now):
Keep Your Distance
Waltzing's For Dreamers
I Agree With Pat Metheny
"RT's Tribute to Tom Lehrer"
King of Bohemia
Turning of the Tide
Ghost of You Walks
Feel So Good
Dry My Tears
God Loves a Drunk
Words Unspoken Sights Unseen
Wall of Death
Dimming of the Day
...some truly fine performances, of course. Highlights for me included RT's guitar work on CBUMS, a mesmerizing performance of Great Valerio (following some rather shaky vocals on King of Bohemia-- although I was thrilled to hear that song performed), the current arrangement of Ghost of You Walks, which marries an urgent, pulsating bass to some lovely upper-range chords which seem to add an almost 'hopeful' counterpoint to the song (I don't really know how to describe what I found so appealing about this song tonight... I'd love to have a recording of it as it's currently being played). Feel So Good and Cooksferry Queen rocked, as did Valerie. Words Unspoken, Sights Unseen definitely bears further listening.
An evening well-spent, all in all (though I was well-spent already, following an arduous holiday week at the store).
Oh, yeah... the Tom Lehrer thing. RT really tickled himself, playing substantial hunks of Vatican Rag, Folk Song Army, and a cheery little ditty about a young lady who ultimately confesses to a gruesome spree of murder and mayhem... she had to, 'cause lying's a sin.
Steve Garrison <email@example.com>
RT at the Birchmere show last night: "It must be exciting to live so close to the center of power. Especially with a new man. [scattered chorus of boos] A new tonguetwister every day!"
After the show, RT said that he was reading the current DC bestseller "George W. Bushisms"; he even quoted one of W's greatest hits, "Is our children learning?" OH humorously opined that W might break down at some point and say "it's all a joke."
What a fine, full show it was. RT played 14 out of 19 songs from Action Packed. The solo "Persuasion" was a nice surprise, and was the favorite of a newly converted newbie. Also good to see fervent RT fan John Jennings in the audience.
I hereby apologize to Tom Jackson for being quick to reach the keyboard. I won't spoil everything about tonight's show. (No, I'll just spoil a little of it.)
I've always liked the word "quiver." Don't you like it as well? It's a container for arrows--what you would think of as a stable protector for kinetic objects--but it's also something kinetic in itself. I've been looking for the word "quiver" all evening to characterize two moments in tonight's show.
The first was at the end of "Crawl Back Under My Stone." After that abrupt final strum, Richard stepped back, two or three steps, and I swear I saw him shake, or tremble--or quiver--and then open his eyes as if he'd caught his consciousness all at once in his own arms.
The second instance was the final note of...oh, man, which song was it? Might've been "Persuasion." Or "King of Bohemia"? He was picking out notes softly, as he sometimes does to end a song, and this last note was part of the major chord--not an unexpected note--but there was something about the way he hit it that the sound--not the pitch, but the sound--wavered. Quivered. If it was an accident, it was a brilliant one.
I told Richard that this was one of the best shows I'd ever heard him do. He seemed genuinely baffled. I said, "Hey, it sounds different to you up there than it does to us down here."
It was a powerful show, a passionate show, but it was the quiver that made it special.
(Or should I laud the arrows, rather than the quiver? Every one true to its target.)
Sorry I'm lapsing into purpleness...must be the beer....
Here's the setlist from RT's second night at the Birchmere.
When the Spell Is Broken
Crawl Back Under My Stone (with a brief quotation of "Rhiannon" during the solo)
From Galway to Graceland
Sights and Sounds of London Town
My Daddy Is a Mummy
Dry My Tears
I Agree With Pat Metheny (an extended and humorous spoken intro to this one)
Shoot Out the Lights
Turning of the Tide
King of Bohemia
I Feel So Good
Words Unspoken Sights Unseen
I count ten songs played this evening that were not played on Sunday. Judging by RT's comment at the end ("See you all tomorrow night"), there may be even more tomorrow.
Our Hero is onstage at one of the top clubs in the country. You're sitting in the front row. He's performing with vim and vigor. He's in the middle of the show and pauses. The adoring crowd yells out a cacophony of requests.
Suddenly, he gestures toward you and singles you out, by name! "Pam Winters! What would you like to hear?" He turns to the lights man and calls "Spotlight!"
Pam is on the spot, if not literally in the spotlight! She manages to cry out, "Don't Let A Thief Steal Into Your Heart!" A connoisseur's choice! (There was no "First Light" tour.)
Now RT is on the spot! He initially demurs: he hasn't performed it in a while, he's not sure he can remember it. But he plunges bravely into the song, apparently playing it in a different key. It sounds great!
But OH stops singing, not playing, two-thirds of the way through. He says he can't remember "the tricky third verse." Prompting by Pam (and me, sitting two seats behind her) ("Everyone is in love with money....") does not help. But RT rocks and roars through an extended closing chorus.
This was no dream. It happened last night at the Birchmere.
On Easter after the first Birchmere show, Richard and Pam were observed playing a hand game, "My Bunny/Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean."
I'm not sure there's a No. 1 RT fan, but Pam has be in the Top 10.
I don't recall seeing on the list a setlist as actually written by RT. Here is the one from April 18 at the Birchmere. It's all in Caps. Some of the abbreviations are fun. Songs not played are noted.
DISTANCE (not played)
UNIN (not played)
MR. RE./SHAND (latter not played) (not sure why they were linked)
BEES. (not played)
"My Daddy is a Mummy" and "Don't Let a Thief Steal Into Your Heart" made unscheduled appearances. I may have missed one more. Maybe it was "I Misunderstood." The setlist is printed on a 3 x 5" card lined with small squares. Simon threw it out from the stage, I caught it, and got RT to sign it afterwards.
As the Birchmere gigs seem to have ended in An Exclusive Pam Winters Tribute, and we've heard Pam is away for some time, I'd like (after a short hesitation) to come forward with the story Pam mailed me after the first Birchmere concert. I pretty well know it's not done putting on private mails to the full list, but I think this mail really says it all: a proof of ultimate RT-fandom, that - maybe, in European circumstances - could only be equaled by Emanuelle from France. No offence meant to either of these female RT-lovers of the highest class. I think forwarding this to you all is worth the naughty sin. If you want to flame me for this, please do (but keep it off-list, please ;-)
Pam addressed her letter to me and to someone else on this list that I know of , but I think she was silently hoping I would forward it to the guys in RT's direct environment & I'm afraid I surely did.
Imagine, it's earlier this week. Just After Easter 2001. Pam Winters:
I am too humiliated to approach Thompson Management with this tale directly. However, should it prove significant in the future, it would be best if the details were made clear. You may share them at your discretion. Herewith, my affidavit.
- - -
I do admit to bringing 11 (eleven) chocolate bunnies to the Birchmere this evening--Easter evening, April 15, 2001. They were not removed from my bag when it was searched (glanced at) by Birchmere officials.
Having gotten a seat within four yards of the stage, I was quite thrilled and perhaps a little giddy. I admit to having then freely, nay promiscuously, and certainly gleefully presented a number of these bunnies to various friends, strangers, and other folks at the concert, including one Simon Tassano.
I attest that the following conversation then took place: When Mr. Tassano asked, "Are you going to give a chocolate bunny to Richard?" I asked him if he would like me to give it to him to give to Mr. Thompson, or should I just follow through on my original plan of, and I quote, "lobbing it at him onstage." Mr. Tassano's reply, as I recall it, was, "Oh, yes, lob away: but make sure that you DON'T HIT THE GUITAR."
I swear that I was quite well-behaved throughout the concert and did not cause anything approaching a ruckus. I can call witnesses who will verify my account--oh, except that they were probably too busy gazing, slack-jawed, at the amazing Mr. Thompson to notice my demeanor.
I thought carefully about the bunny delivery, and at the beginning of the first encore, after judging the various trajectories and considering the placement of the folks in front of me, I forswore all lobbing activity and asked the nice woman seated between me and the stage to gently ease the aforementioned bunny onto the stage near Mr. Thompson's feet.
I was not responsible for the people around me who pointed at me extravagantly when Mr. Thompson held up the bunny with a smile and gleefully announced that he could "play all night if I had 50 more of these."
Most definitely, I deny ALL responsibility for what happened next, when, in a fit of Easter- and Thompson-induced euphoria, a friend (who shall remain nameless) pitched HER bunny in the general direction of Mr. Thompson, where a metallic BRZNNNGGK! suggested that it had hit at least two guitar strings. I do not believe that this bunny's velocity was enough to do any damage. Really, though, am I my friend's keeper? (Perhaps my friend needs a keeper.)
I do, finally, swear that I will never again bring chocolate bunnies to a Richard Thompson concert, even if it is Easter. I am relieved that no one was injured, that no harm seemed to have come to the guitar, and that Mr. Thompson was forgiving enough to join me in a post-concert chorus of "My Bunny Lies Over the Ocean." Nevertheless, I am mortified at what might have happened.
Pamela Murray Winters
P.S. I didn't even get a damn bunny of my own. Thompson got Bunny No. 10; I gave Bunny No. 11 to our waitress as part of the tip.
P.P.S. My friend the bunny-lobber had only one beer; I had only two beers, and one was stale. So alcohol did not factor into this incident.
P.P.P.S. I ought to have noted earlier that each bunny was sealed in a foil pouch. No one was flinging loose chocolate around or anything. I mean, at least not in my section of the Birchmere.
For us editors & journalists, stealing is a big thing in our business. I'd like to thank Scott Miller for his Birchmere report on the Pam Winters Climax. He inspired me to sin in the honour of Richard Thompson. I think Pam's got to be in the Top 3!
PS, but hush: Simon T. said: I haven't been there, haven't seen anything, don't know anything about it.
Tuesday night RT was feeling very much at home on the stage of the Birchmere:
"It's the third night. The song selections are becoming more exotic and the crowd is becoming more wild and abandoned."
"You've got to watch the smiley ones. They're the ones that are dangerous. Bob Dylan told me that."
"I went to school with one of the Stranglers. I really did. But he wasn't a Strangler then. He acquired Strangledness."
"I was raised listening to my father's Hot Five [Louis Armstrong] records."
[In response to a call of "Where's Teddy?"]: "Teddy's not here. He's in New York. Do you want him to come onstage and take over the show? Do you think he's better than I am? I can see the billing now: TEDDY THOMPSON, with" [shows small space between thumb and forefinger]
"I had my manager check the copyright on the title 'I Agree With Pat Metheny.' We did have a problem with one of my earlier songs, 'I Want to Hold Your Hand.'"
[In response to the inevitable "Free Bird" request, sings]: "Free bird, free as the sky, free as the wind, she's my free bird, you crazy, wacky free bird."
"After careful research, I have cracked the sound and style of the disco across from the lighthouse and library of Alexandria in 1000 B.C. And keep in mind that there are two Memphises."
"The way to go now commercially is kids' songs. Raffi just bought IBM."
"I thought I'd do one that two people shouted for. It's more democratic."
Setlist retrieved for this night indicated that there was room for a couple of impromptu songs, including the historic Pam Winters tribute.
Could someone who was at the Birchmere on Monday night supply RT's remarks on the (separate) subjects of Bushisms and Stalin?
to have RT single you out by name for a request, then to have your request played and entered in the setlist!
RT couldn't fully remember the lyrics to "Thief" on Tuesday at the Birchmere, but he's obviously revisited them a couple of times since. OH has also clearly recovered from the pain of the Pointer Sisters not having a hit with that song. Did anyone hear that version? How was it?
It's also interesting that "Thief" is one of the few Richard & Linda songs that they sing together all the way through. What are the others? I can only think offhand of "Wall of Death."
If Pam has the power to get a song onto the setlist, she should be able to get the coda reinserted :)). So far, there have hardly been any variations from the Birchmere repertoire at later RT shows.
Not to sound ungrateful or anything (reminds me of the joke about the lost child with the punch line "He had a hat!"), but what I really miss is the coda that he sang at a St. Ann's show a few years ago--the one that goes something like
You're living in dreamland
And you're standing on quicksand
Won't you try try try to understand
Don't let a thief steal into your heart
That really made the song for me back then--I hadn't been a fan of it before that, but that performance, with its evangelical fervor, really knocked me out. I'm glad to hear him doing "Thief" again.
Pam (and again and again....)
Someone asked if Pam made it to the show. I met her, she sat in Row B (12th or 13th row) I think. It was great to finally meet her after all she has written about RT and Sandy. It was also fun to be at a show with Robyn and Jeff again!
It was a wonderful show. Does anyone know who the dancing woman was? She seemed to cheer up RT when she would call out requests and went dancing to the stage. Anyone from the list?
The acoustics were great. I often forget that at the Keswick, because they are so good. The delays were very atmospheric as someone mentioned in the last show. It was interesting that they (Simon & RT) have "choreographed" it so well that they can change it mid-phase. From what people have said for set lists from the Birchmere, it seems that RT is varying them much more solo. A response, perhaps to comments?
NP - Radio Tarifa - Cruzando El Rio
BTW, he was great at the Keswick, but does anyone think there's a bit too much bluster (not sure if that's the right word, but close) creeping into his vocals, particularly at the end of songs? As his voice (and body) gets stronger over the years, is he starting to lose some of his subtlety?
You've hit on my _one_ complaint about last night's Orpheum performance: Too often Richard ended songs by repeating the chorus at higher and higher volume and (an attempt at) greater emotional pitch. Doing this so often had, for me, the opposite effect from the intended: it came off as a "signifier" of great emotion, rather than the real thing.
Other than that, the show was splendid, one of the best RT acoustic shows I can recall seeing. In the past I've sometimes ventured on the list that RT seems to fall into certain musical "tics" when he's soloing, but last night his playing seemed endlessly inventive. I was particularly impressed by some choices of chord voicings that added unusual and rich new harmonies to old tunes, e.g., on the "Everyone is in love with money..." bridge to DLATSIYH. (I'm not sure that "voicings" is the right word here; perhaps I simply mean different chords!)
I'm on digest, so this no doubt has been mentioned already, but: As an added treat, Dave Mattacks, now a Bostonian, came out for the first encore with just snare and high-hat and added drums to "Al Bowlly," "Cooksferry Queen," and, and "Bathsheba Smiles." Astonishing what a talented musician can get out of such a small kit. RT and he looked attentively at each other throughout, clearly having not rehearsed much if at all. I must admit, RT's playing seemed a little inhibited by having to coordinate with DM, but it was still fun.
"Words Unspoken, Sight Unseen" is an odd song at first listen. It's got a little bit of that galloping pace as in "Don't Renege on Our Love" (though a bit slower); RT plays the strings in a rather muted, "dry" style; and the melody takes some odd turns. I'll be very interested to see how it becomes fleshed out when recorded.
"My Daddy Is a Mummy" and "I Agree with Pat Metheny," along with their accompanying intros, were very well received (and nice breaks from what even I came to realize was a rather dark set of songs).
A few other notes: There were of course a few "clever" souls in the audience - perhaps members of this list - who called out for songs knowing that they were next on the set list, and one who yelled "Kenny G!" well before RT had gotten to that part of his Pat Metheny rap. RT was clearly not amused, though he dealt with it in his usual heckler-handling way: "You, sir, must be clairvoyant.... Don't go spoiling the punchline." I can't see the point in this behavior: it annoys Richard, and who does it impress?
You'll remember my asking the list a while back whether I should tell my friend that RT was depressing or not. She enjoyed the show, though I think she did find it a bit too much on the miserable side. Her boyfriend felt similarly: he said he could listen to RT play guitar forever, but were there any albums where that's _all_ he did (i.e., not sing)? (I told him there was "Strict Tempo," but it was a different kettle of fish entirely.)
RT did not acknowledge the anniversary of Sandy's death, nor did anyone in the audience bring it up that I heard. I considered yelling, "Play one for Joey Ramone!" but never found the moment.
Spotted only one other Dee-shirt on an audience member, as we were exiting. The wearer and I nodded at each other but didn't stop to exchange names. Who were you, sir?
I agree. There was one song, perhaps Crawl Back, where his anger, as he shouted the closing lines, crossed just for a second into melodrama. I only noticed this once, though. Great performance overall. By the way, which song was it that he interjected the first line from Dylan's Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues? ("When you're lost in the rain in Juarez and it's Eastertime too.") I wish I had taken notes.
Spotted in the audience of Richard's Friday night New York City Town Hall concert was Linda Thompson, sitting next to son Teddy prior to the latter's encores with his father. Linda attentively listened to all of Richard's songs, and politely applauded at the end of each number. At the show, Richard sang "The Great Valerio" and "Walking On A Wire", songs which Linda sang on the albums, in addition to "Don't Let A Thief Steal Into Your Heart." Linda really got excited when Teddy came on to join Richard in some duets at the end of the show. I spoke to her after the encores, and she said that she had seen Teddy perform with Richard many times before. I found out that a few nights earlier, at the Fez cafe, she actually joined Teddy for a song....a new one about Richard! I suggested that it would be great to hear all three of them singing on a track together. She said that she would be open to it, but that she doubted that Richard wanted to "delve into the past", although she seemed to think it might be possible at some future point. I said to her that Richard was a great artist...but that there was nothing like a Richard and Linda album. She heartily agreed.
The Jolly Hangman
why Teddy seemed so jittery, making clear botches (not coming in at the right point on the vocals, chording mistakes on guitar) on the three songs he did with RT. Richard, on the other hand, was stellar as usual. He was in excellent voice and the attentiveness in the large hall was remarkable. You could hear the proverbial pin drop after the coda to Great Valerio. I didn't keep a set list but personal highlights were Valerio, Cooksferry Queen, Name Unspoken (?), Uninhabited Man. He opened with Don't Let a Thief Steal Into Your Heart.
Wonderful show @ Town Hall in NYC last Friday though I do have a minor annoyance to convey........I took my son (an aspiring young guitarist) to see RT for the first time and we were sitting stage left......Town Hall is a beautiful mid-size hall seating about 1,500 and no one on our side could see RT play the guitar because his back was to us the whole show......this problem is compounded by a solo performance........RT a little shift in footwork to the left so the guitar's out front would enable those of us to your left to appreciate the magic of your fingerpicking.
Richard played for almost two hours including encores
1. Crawl Back (Under My Stone)
2. When The Spell Is Broken
3. Don't Let A Thief Steal Into Your Heart
4. King Of Bohemia
5. Turning Of The Tide
6. Walking On A Wire
7. I Misunderstood
8. My Daddy Is A Mummy
9. Dry My Tears And Move On
10. 1952 Vincent Black Lightning
11. Why Must I Plead?
12. I Feel So Good
13. The Ghost Of You Walks
14. I Agree With Pat Metheny
17. Uninhabited Man
19. Bathsheba Smiles (with Dave Mattacks on hi-hat and snare drum)
20. Al Bowlly's In Heaven (with Dave Mattacks on hi-hat and
snare drum (brushes))
21. Cooksferry Queen (with Dave Mattacks on hi-hat and snare drum)
22. Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen (new song)
23. Dimming Of The Day
Brian A. Miller
as would be expected, with nearly two hours of RT's music at the grungy old Orpheum Theater. The pleasant surprise of the evening was the appearance of local resident Dave Mattacks and a minimal drum kit to join him on three encores, "Bathsheba Smiles", "Al Bowlly", and "Cooksferry Queen". A nice version of "Why Must I Plead" was a welcome addition to the setlist, and "Walking On A Wire" was something of a chiller high point. Like probably a lot of people on this list who have seen him many, many times, I don't necessarily expect any stunning new revelations at an RT show, just the utterly uplifting experience of watching one of the best musicians who's ever picked up a guitar ply his trade. And that's what it was last night.
I guess I'll be brief since I need to run off to the final day of the New England Folk Festival.
I caught RT last saturday night at the Orpheum Theater in Boston. Incredible show. It had been too long since I'd seen him last, 1994 at this same venue, and this was the first all acoustic show of his for me. He opened with "Crawl Back Under My Stone" and followed with a searing version of "When The Spell Is Broken", featuring some jaw dropping guitar playing. I have written down just about all songs played, however there were a few in the main set I wasn't too familiar with. Hopefully someone could fill in the gaps. I think I may be missing 3 songs at most. The encores began with Richard bringing out Dave Mattacks to play snare and cymbal on 3 songs, "Bathsheba Smiles", Al Bowleys In Heaven" and "Cooksferry Queen". "Hes one of you, now, a Bostonian" said RT, "Hes available for weddings, birthdays. What do you charge now Dave? 2000 an hour? " They had great fun on "Al Bowley" Just a wonderful show.