I do not want to steal Louise's thunder and look forward to her insightful comments, but here are a few observations about last night's show in Chicago.
Of the 20 or so times that I've seen RT, this was by far his most "relaxed" performance. Usually he is very concerned about audience reactions to his own tunes. For 1000 years, he appears to sing the songs for the pure enjoyment of it. When he hit a less than perfect note, he was unfazed.
I forgot to bring pad and pen for a set list, but it was pretty close to the cd. He really enjoys giving detailed intros to the songs. They opened with a Summer is Icumen In in three part vocals. Debra Dobkin and Judith Owen were fine on vocals. In my opinion, "Blackleg Miner" is the most Thompsonesque song on the list and he really gets into it.
He sang a Hank Williams tune and did not sound even remotely country, but somehow it worked. No "Waiting at the Church" or "Legal Matter".
My mother enjoyed the show and remarked "he's so much more versatile than Pete Seeger". Gotta love her.
I will let you know if tonight's show is any different.
Fri 10/24/2003 9:35 AM
I had been a lurking subscriber for a long time, then strayed for several months, but now I'm back. I've never posted before, but after my experience, I just had to.
I was fortunate enough to see last night's "1000 Years" in Chicago. Although I have been a long time fan, it was my first time seeing OH live...and what an absolute joy it was. My wife, who has only been a casual fan (and that only because she happens to listen when I do), enjoyed it so much more than I thought she would. She remarked, "I always thought he was just a singer/songwriter, I had no idea he was such an accomplished musician!" (What have I been saying all these years!). She said she always assumed he had someone else playing with him, or that he had a tape of a second guitar. The fact that all those sounds came just from him was an eye opener for her.
Anyway, he seemed relaxed and in good humor. When I got to shake his hand after the performance, my wife remarked to her friends, "he'll be smiling like an idiot for days." She's right. I also got a chance to chat with Judith and Debra, both of whom added such wonderful layers to the performance.
I apologize for the length of this post, but I am just so content.
Mad Jacques [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Fri 10/24/2003 9:37 AM
I thought the show was fantastic. The Old Town school is a great venue (sightlines/acoustics) and OH displayed his versatility. I specifically did not listen to the CD before the show because I wanted to experience it live first. Setlist was as described in an earlier post. I really didn't notice a missed note the whole show and I thought that the "band" was very tight. used lyric sheets for a couple of songs but it was not a distraction and nothing was missed. I thought OH seemed a bit nervous (almost stuttery) when introducing some of the songs but the introductions really helped put the whole show into context. More intro for the obscure songs, which was good as it was less necesssary as the show moved into the 20th century. A funny moment occurred when something happened to the stage lights and the white backdrop to the stage became brilliantly lit by some unfiltered spot lights -- it was as if God (or Allah) himself was stopping in to pay a visit. OH clutched his chest as if dumfounded and then began his next song.
Patrick Keating [ email@example.com
Fri 10/24/2003 11:10 AM
Good morning !
Of course I typed my question with a wicked smirk on my face. I guess it wasn't nice of me to tease. My apologies.
Thanks to Patrick for the quick concise review. Alas, I can't be concise today.
Warning! Spoilers below. If you will be seeing this show tonight, best to save this for later. I apologize in advance for my lack of knowledge of musical terms.
It's a jewel, that Old Town School auditorium. Occupancy 333, says the sign. You can see the venue here:
They entered, smiling, through the audience door stage left, wound through between the first and second row of cafe tables, Deborah then RT then Judith (drum, guitar, tambourine) to the rhythm of Sumer Is Acumen In and mounted the stage by the steps stage right. Deborah got behind her drums and Judith to her stand stage left while RT continued the strum, and then launched into the round. My first surprise: Deborah sings! So the three-part round had a more shimmering quality than I'd expected. (Did Michael Jerome sing Sumer in last summer's shows? I don't recall.)
Very interesting in songs where both women were singing; they have different vocal qualities, Deborah's is voice higher and has more of a folk twang, Judith of course smoother, lower, fuller, both making a nice foil for RT.
And how ! After King Henry, the 2nd song, Judith came back out, Deborah came out from behind drums and RTR put his Lowden down in its stand. A madrigal piece, a "cansonette", I missed the title, the song involves the words "sleep" and "rest". (Did I miss mention of this from earlier in the summer? I've been very preoccupied.) It was thrilling in ways beyond its beauty.. something about seeing musicians out from behind their instruments signing unadorned seemed very brave to me. I was sitting *very* close and I could feel and hear the concentration.
RT in excellent voice and delightful humor. Longer intros to the songs than I recall from last year. I didnt think RT seemed nervous at all; it's just his usual stammer. Judith seemed a little spikey but she sounded great...Cry Me A River was looovely.
Deborah very focused on her drums. Very good; very different feel than MJ. As someone mentioned earlier in the year, fascinating to hear the difference in drummers and how that affects the music. Onstage, RT was really watching her towards the ends of songs, expectantly but not worried; she's apparently gotten the hang of songs the way he likes them; they always shared a big smile at each finish.
Setlist to come later. This was a terrific top-level show.
Oh---Orange Colored Sky was AMAZING. (and not just because it was my favorite childhood song, either Pam)
louise e molnar [ firstname.lastname@example.org]
Fri 10/24/2003 11:24 AM
It's raining here now in Chicago, steadily, soothingly. I still have all these songs echoing in my head...at the moment it's Banks of the Nile.
I was truly delighted with last night's show; really top-notch. And yet tonight's show was a notch above it!...smoother than last night's, better-paced. RT's intros were more focused, Judith's mood was bright and bubbly. And the vibe of the audience was more lively (tho the front row folk tonight were mostly immobile. Hardly a sway or a bop among them.)
Damn, he really ripped it up. His playing was stellar of course.(Orange-Colored Sky, yikes!) "Kiss" was astounding tonight. I don't know how to describe how he threw himself into it...he wasn't on the outside of it. Playing it like he means it. Playing and singing as if he lived inside the song. "Fully realized" is a phrase that springs to mind. It was passionate and seductive and very masculine and playful but not ironic. On top of that irresistable beat, his voice really swooped and soared, very fluid; some lines he growled, some were sweeter; he sang a line or two in falsetto (!)...it was ...perfect.
More tomorrow perhaps.
louise e molnar [ email@example.com
Sat 10/25/2003 2:28 AM
Sumer Is Acumen In
So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo
Bonnie St Johnstone
the "cansonette" (mini-madrigal for 3 voices)
When I Am Laid in Earth
Full Fathom Five
Banks of the Nile
Black Leg Miner
Waiting at the Church
There is Beauty
Where Have My Loved Ones Gone?
Sit Right Down & Write Myself a Letter
Cry Me A River
Don't Stop the Music
It Won't Be Long
Same as above except:
Trafalgar Square instead of Waiting at the Church
Old Rockin Chair's Got Me instead of Letter
Wine Spo-dee-odee instead of Don't Stop the Music
louise e molnar [ firstname.lastname@example.org
Sat 10/25/2003 2:42 AM
Haven't posted for some time but here are some details from Chicago:
....but first, under the heading of cannot resist , Bink puzzled over the
shoe fetishist >It was not clear why he may have preferred the left foot <
... most likely his mother was a dancer
So, thanks to the wanton act of kindness of Louise in that very city, I was able to attend the Friday 1000 Years show. And, since I haven't yet (digester) seen any postings on the interview of OH by Griel Marcus (sp.?), I'll share what I can retrieve, in no particular order. The event was free to the public and held in the concert venue at the OTS from about 5:15 to 6:30 on Friday evening. As I walked in RT was sitting on the steps just inside the entrance, head down, listening intently to the bio given by GM. There was plenty of space left in the seating as RT walked to the floor area in front of the stage where he sat with GM and responded to questions from GM alone. After RT had left to prepare for the show, GM asked for questions - there were none. The interview was quirky, much of it spent on GM's evident need to establish his own provenance and referring to academic treatises, professors at Princeton, and the like, on ballads, the history of the punk movement in Britain, beginning in 1976 and Richard's place in this latter development. RT spoke about how at that time he felt quite lost musically and saw only Genesis and Elton John (here he dissed Bernie Taupin's lyrics) and so felt quite energized by the emergence of punk. Here GM referred to the first lyric in Tale in Hard Time from FC's What we Did on Our Holidays
Take the sun from my heart
Let me learn to despise
and incredibly, or so I thought, traced the beginning of the punk movement to these lines. Such was their effect on GM, one gathers. In general, I had to wade through the interviewer's unabashedly adoring , albeit elliptical - even sparse, knowledge of RT's catalogue - he said that 1952VBL "went by me" on first listening, and so he wasn't familiar with the song until one of his academic pals listed it as one of two essentials for understanding Scottish ballads (yes), at which point he went back for a second listen. There was truly an odd moment, when GM, having asked RT if he were following the World Series (RT said he doesn't follow baseball), went on to describe the TV ad in which men with bad toupees are shown and how GM did not see how this would appeal to the Budweiser Beer-drinking ad's target audience. Another moment which evoked the look from some audience members much like the one my dog gives when hearing an unidentifiable sound from the far side of a closed door, was a long quote from Bob Dylan regarding "death and vegetables", I believe. RT responded in his characteristically genteel manner, but there wasn't much opportunity for his trenchant irony given the questions, which often weren't questions at all. GM focused a great deal on the theme of death in RT's lyrics (GM's overly literal take on the ever-presence of the theme of loss, I believe) at which point RT spoke of the optimism he believes supports the songs. At this point the only bit of audience interaction occurred, when some guy yelled out Wall of Death. RT, no doubt glad for respite from this rather turgid exercise, was animated in his thanks of the speaker, who found it to be an optimistic song. Funnily, I left feeling a bit puzzled, and if I hadn't spent most of my life around academics, I believe I might have thought it was I who was missing something. Out in the street, great relief in knowing that within a couple of hours I would be hearing RT and his music doing the talking. The concert has been well described by Louise and others. If I have anything to add, I'll post it later, along with some thoughts about my somewhat leisurely conversation with Simon after the show.
David Orbison [ email@example.com ]
Mon 10/27/2003 1:18 PM
Thanks, David, for your amusing description of the "rather turgid exercise" of RT's meeting with Greil Marcus last week:
The interview was quirky, much of it spent on GM's evident need to establish his own provenance and referring to academic treatises, professors at Princeton, and the like, on ballads, the history of the punk movement in Britain, beginning in 1976 and Richard's place in this latter development...... In general, I had to wade through the interviewer's unabashedly adoring , albeit elliptical - even sparse, knowledge of RT's catalogue....... RT responded in his characteristically genteel manner, but there wasn't much opportunity for his trenchant irony given the questions, which often weren't questions at all. GM focused a great deal on the theme of death in RT's lyrics (GM's overly literal take on the ever-presence of the theme of loss, I believe) at which point RT spoke of the optimism he believes supports the songs...... Funnily, I left feeling a bit puzzled, and if I hadn't spent most of my life around academics, I believe I might have thought it was I who was missing something.
You mean you didn't know that RT invented punk? (I thought it was Arthur Lee.)
My guess is that RT left this event thinking, "He's even worse than those amateur critics, he's a Professional Critic!" Can't be too hard on Greil Marcus, though, as he did the liner notes for "Watching the Dark."
Me, I'm back to working on my magnum opus, "'Prisoners of Death': The Epistemology of Nonbeing in the Songs of Richard Thompson," soon to be published in 576 editions of the RT list digest.
"After the death of a thousand kisses
Comes the catacomb of tongues."---Richard Thompson
Scott Miller [ firstname.lastname@example.org ]
Mon 10/27/2003 5:29 PM
I also caught the Greil Marcus/RT interview. GM gave quite a laudatory introduction for RT who appeared to be genuinely appreciative. RT went into the Playboy request and the idea for 1000 years. He indicated that he chose the songs based on their adaptability to a three piece. The only other criteria was that the chosen songs were among his favorites.
It also struck me as odd that GM had to re-listen to VBL. RT mentioned that he is surprised that VBL and Beeswing are his most requested songs. He didn't think that his fans had attention spans long enough to focus on long story songs. He finally decided that music fans must equate length with quality. How else to explain Freebird.
GM focused on RT's alleged dark lyrics. RT seemed to be flattered by the Johnny Cash and Warren Zevon comparisons. In addition to Tale in Hard Time, GM referenced Devonside and Sloth. Although RT was polite and tried to follow GM's stream of consciousness questions, he had a hard time following the questions and didn't add a tremendous amount of insight. This was by design I'm sure as RT, like most great song writers, don't like to analyze their muse or what they were thinking at the precise moment they wrote a particular song. He did say that his personality is not as dark as others interpretations of his songs would imply. I agree with the previous post regarding RT's favourable reaction to an audience member's reference to the hopefulness of Wall of Death.
The Dylan quote regarding the demise of traditional music was interesting. I had read it before, I think in the book "Positively Fourth Street". RT's response was "A weird fellow, our Bob".
I was impressed with GM's dizzying cultural references and the effort that he clearly put into his preparation. I read "Mystery Train" and "Invisible Republic" and as was my reaction to those, GM's level of depth to which he analyzed RT's music did not disappoint.
RT and GM each indicated that they were honoured to have the opportunity to have the conversation. It sounded sincere.
The 1000 Years shows were both great. RT let himself loose on the Lowden a bit more on the second night.
Mon 10/27/2003 6:46 PM