Princeton October 30, 2001

McCarter SetList

Herewith the setlist from Tuesday evening's splendid show in Princeton, NJ

Word Unspoken Sight Unseen 
Crawl Back 
How Will I Ever Be Simple Again 
Outside Inside 
My Daddy Is a Mummy 
Dry My Tears 
1952 VBL 
Shoot Out the Lights 
Razor Dance 
Genesis Hall 
Feel So Good 
Turning of the Tide 
Down Where the Drunkards Roll 
Cooksferry Queen 
* * * * * 
So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo 
Legal Matter 
* * * * * 
Wall of Death 
Read About Love 
I Misunderstood

Particularly noteworthy, to my ears:

WUSU was an excellent opener... this song seems to me to grow with every hearing. 

Spectacular guitar passages on Crawl Back Outside Inside (or whatever it's called) seems the most fully realized and complete of the new songs... 'god didn't listen to charley parker/charley parker's life was in vain... etc etc' Other lyric fragments remain in my memory, but this one already seems like a "real song" to me. 

SOTL... this time it was spiky and abstract, in contrast to the thunderous version I recall when last I saw RT, in Charlottesville in the spring. Wonderful. 

Bit of a train wreck on Razor Dance... not the first time I've seen RT 'vapor-lock' on this song. 

Kidzz: my first hearing... I love the message, and it has some great lines... especially about kids running toward the (corporate) sniper who has them in his sights... they laugh at the way he styles his hair. But it seems incomplete, some lines seem like throw-aways... they don't really advance the song. 

Destiny: a work in progress... it seemed 'flat' to me, like RT hasn't really worked out the accompanying chord structure... there are pleasing melodic elements, but the backing seems like fairly pedestrian strumming at this point. I bet it gets better... I like the chorus. 

Wall of Death: wasn't thrilled when this encore began, but it was a really striking performance... more reflective than energised. Had nice opportunity to speak with RT and Simon after show... very relaxed and friendly. Business affairs and consequently timing of going into studio seem completely up in the air, however.

Many listees in attendance, including Usual Suspects with whom I travelled: Pam, Linda and Barry. Others will have to fill in the details, however... I'm running on fumes and ready to conk out.


...grateful occupant of one of Louise's seats... da chex in da mail, miz. (well, almost)

At the risk of getting digitally pelted 

with virtual rotten vegetables, I have to say I found the McCarter show a little disappointing (I've been to the last 5). The sound system lacked the clarity I've usually heard (top strings sounded harsh and tinny). RT seemed not particularly into it. The setlist was on the predictable side. His guitar playing was sloppier than I've ever seen it before. "My Daddy is a Mummy" and the intro thereto were cute the first 14 times; at this point "Hamlet" and "Now that I am Dead" would be a breath of fresh air. "Dry My Tears" does not work as currently performed (muddy effect pedal etc) -- to me it requires a band and a brass section, as on the record. I am beginning to think that he simply tours too much to keep things consistently fresh. (Naturally, if it were anyone else I'd have been bowled over, but having seen the guy something like 20-30 times, I've come to expect consistent magic.)

This raises a question: should Richard play with the assumption that the audience consists of RT neophytes (in which case, sure, play the funny novelty songs and the "greatest hits") or that it consists of hard core fans who are entirely familiar with his shtick and would love to hear him stretch out a bit in a less programmatic way? When will we return to the days of a spontaneous 9 minute solo? Has he forgotten Calvary Cross and Night Comes In?

Anyway, Englewood, NJ next week.



Chris Bates said, "If we choose to see him (or any act, for that matter) more than biannually, this is something that we need to accept. The vast majority of his audience aren't like us, I imagine."

One hopes!

I've got to disagree with Kirk here on the quality of the McCarter show...although he's not the first person I've heard say that RT seemed to be phoning in bits of it. I found it energetic, fairly precise, and soulful throughout.

He did 22 songs, half of which were relatively new--not all new to those of us who see him all the time, of course. Three were from Mock Tudor (Cooksferry, Crawl Back, Dry My Tears). Five were as-yet-unrecorded Thompson compositions, included the already-oft-heard "My Daddy Is a Mummy." Two were covers from the Getty show. One, "Persuasion," was also relatively new (and gets better with each of RT's solo essays of it; I think at first he really missed having Teddy there).

Of the older (pre-MT) songs he did, only "Razor Dance" and "Turning of the Tide" were letdowns. (I admit to not caring much for ToTT, and I got a bit antsy at that point in the program.) His guitar work on "Shoot Out the Lights" and "Down Where the Drunkards Roll" was up to his usual high standards. SoTL revealed a rather elaborate, almost too-out-there conversation between high and low notes on the guitar, whereas Drunkards was sublimely beautiful, with bagpipe-like skirls that shimmered between a call to arms and a funeral lament. "Wall of Death" was quite different, as already discussed. "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" was...well, it was 1952 VBL, and therefore almost mandatory. (He didn't accept requests to do his other perennial, "Beeswing.")

I thought that, throughout the set, he took more chances, vocally, than I expected him to. Yeah, he screwed up some lyrics on "Razor Dance" (and rebounded fairly quickly), but it's been a long time since I've seen him do a show where he hasn't flubbed at least one lyric, and I don't hold it against him.

He left himself somewhat open to requests, though he didn't leave a lot of time for them.

I can't speak for the sound, since I was in an iffy seat for sound anyway (front and center--so I was getting a sort of echo from in back of me). (Am I complaining? Hell, no!)

I've seen him 20 or 30 times in the past couple of years; I've been to shows that were less than his best, and this didn't feel like one of them to me.

So Kirk, if you're sick of seeing him and want to get rid of those Englewood tickets.... :^)