North America Tour May 2003 

It was a dark, stormy and very humid night.

The usual mature suspects in black tee shirts from RTB tours of yore pressed their noses yearningly to the steamed glass doors of Atlanta's Variety Playhouse until at last admission was attained. Oh! The store of riches just inside! The totes in black and natural! The NEW black tees featuring that jaunty little pilgrim and available in an array of sizes!! The CDs!! How tempting, yet the faithful felt the fervor to press forward to find "the perfect seat". 

Well, enough of that.

If I may take a Rashomon moment here, I have to say I perceived the Atlanta show last night to be more musical than political. Yes, gentle lister, if you were wondering, it did indeed comprise the previously enumerated 23 song setlist beginning with Tear Stained Letter and ending with Word Unspoken. At risk of appearing too harsh, I must interject here that, IMHO, there is never an excuse for omitting When the Spell Is Broken from a band show setlist. Furthermore, in answer to that age old inquiry "What do women want?", I would have to say it would be more electric solos of the Can't Win and Bank Vault in Heaven ilk. Wow! Loved all the new songs from TOKB (Pearly Jim included). Two Left Feet was oodles of fun too.

As to certain comments made by OH (or not OH in some cases), it is my recollection (and my esteemed spouse's) that they were made in response to an audience member asking RT what he thought of Tony Blair. RT's immediate reply was that "all politicians are two-faced's just that ours can string a sentence together". Universal politico-turddom being the overriding thesis, further uncomplimentary allusions to the current President of the United States seemed simply illustrative. I did not take them personally, but hey, that's just me. Besides, it's his show.

A note of caution to future show goers: 1000 Years CD sold out before the show was over. Get 'em while they're hot. How sorely dissapointing it was that after travelling to Joe's Pub last summer, waiting almost a year, and driving through torrential rain and tornado warnings from Nashville to Atlanta, I was unable to plunk down that additional $20 RT so richly deserves for this disc. Hope the $65 I spent on other items helps.

Final RTB sighting: Thursday, May 8 at 3:15 pm CST. Unmarked band bus with U-Haul trailer seen heading north on I-24 in Nashville. Get ready, St. Louis...

Susan S. 
Atlanta: the untold story
Thu 5/8/2003 11:58 PM

Word Unspoken

Attending RT's 9:30 show, and preparing myself for the experience I wanted, took some work. I was determined to be right at the foot of the stage, as close as possible. I knew I would have to stand in line for a long time (I arrived at 4:40 and was the second person in line). It was raining and chilly. I chose my clothes carefully, particularly my shoes. I managed to park nearby so I could duck in and out of line to drop off my raincoat and make a stab at combing my hair.

I was particularly careful about my purse. I usually carry a great bag full of stuff I need, stuff I think I might need, and stuff that just makes its way in there. For 9:30, I packed the smallest purse I could find, one that hung off my shoulder, because I knew I would likely have to carry everything I needed and I wanted to be unencumbered.

I didn't think about the parallels between my preparation and "Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen" when I heard it that night, but I was particularly taken by that song's lyrics as I stood in the place I'd strived for, a few feet from the band's feet.

When I first heard the song, in a solo show some time ago, I thought it was about death--partly because of some otherworldliness in the music, and partly because of the imagery of taking down the trophies and other personal items, and "the walls washed clean." But there's a warmth in the chorus, a giving over of one's heart with an utter innocence that ought to be unnerving but somehow isn't. Or at least for me it isn't: Does anyone else think that this declaration that "I'm newborn to be your lover" will end in shattered dreams?

I was somewhat surprised to hear that the song was about a mail-order bride, but I can see it now. An idealized mail-order-bride situation, to be sure--not one that is likely to happen in real life--and somewhat squirm-inducing to me, as a woman, to imagine.

But Richard's songs are "about" something the way spring is "about" crocuses. Which is to say that one shouldn't limit oneself in experiencing them by aligning them with a vision of reality and overlooking the poetry in them.

I'm not expressing this very well, so I'll try to cut to the chase here: I experience this song as an image of surrender to something that brings hope. And it's totally within the moment; we don't know, really, how "if you'll have me, truly have me" will be answered. But it feels pure to me; it feels like it will turn out well.

Funny, though: "Pearly Jim" also involves giving yourself over to something else, and I think we know how that one turns out. Is it a coincidence that that song's title references the subject of the surrender, whereas "Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen" references the attitude, the process?

Pam (who knows only a very little about giving her heart)
Sun 5/11/2003 11:48 AM

Dispatch from St. Louis
--Special to the List. Reporting as ordered, Mr. Whitehouse:

• Venue: The Pageant - very nice .... roomy but intimate

• Crowd: Full, but not bursting. Crowd primed and respectful, but I suspect a lot of newbies .... RT had them in his pocket after 3 songs. Men's restroom after the show filled with guys shaking their heads and saying, "I didn't know he could play like that!"

• RT: Magisterial, magnificent

• Band: Excellent. Earl Harvin .... steady as she goes. Rory fine, but a bit over-matched by the lead guitarist in places (as who but DT wouldn't be?). Pete a perfect foil for OH.

• Highlight: Listers who have followed the discussion about Zorn's SOTL mandolin freak-out would have loved this .... he made a complete cock-up of it! (Brits ... correct usage?). Knocked the mike off his lead mike stand in mid-flail, had to quickly kneel and hold the mando up to an adjacent mike at knee-level .... much to the interest of a bemused RT and fellow bandmates .... did this ever happen to Jimmy Page? Pete survived and ended solo triumphantly, to crowd's delight.

• RT chatter: Much more than I would have expected from my previous band shows and what I've read about other shows on this tour .... in very good spirits, affable, chatty and his usual wry self. Pretended to mis-hear some guy who wanted his date Kendall's birthday recognized:

OH: "Her name is .... 'Scandal'?"
Audience fool: "No, Kendall!"
OH: "Ah, Kendall ... well, you've been named for a lovely little town in the Lake District, Kendall. Take your hiking boots if you visit, won't you? ... it's a place for mountain climbers ... Let's see ... Kendall ... there's a bank ... a post-office ... a health-food restaurant .... and 22 pubs!" RT also winning local favor by correctly identifying and saluting St. Louis concert perennial "Beatle Bob," who was cavorting with some lady friends below the stage for most of the show.

• RT's pants: Black leather and black leather, my favorite color scheme.

• Music: Ah, yes, the music. I'll spare the raptures .... you've all been there. It was RT at his best, IMHO. Incapable of improving his songwriting or guitar-playing, he has been concentrating on his voice, it seems ... it is a very powerful instrument these days. As someone else pointed out from an earlier show, he not only hit the high note in ALYCS, he sustained it, opened it up and finished it off with a couple of bel canto arpeggios, just for the joy of doing it. For an erudite, soft-spoken Brit, this guy ain't afraid to howl!

• VBL: Here in the provinces, it brought the folks surging to their feet, cheering and roaring. I think RT is well advised to keep playing it .... it's a fair reward for those who come out to see him based on their knowledge of just one song ... and may well end up like the lunatics on this list. 

• Swag: All disks and bags present. Business steady. 

• 1,000 Years CD: I bought it ... it's wonderful ... a must-have for all RT lovers. One of my faves is the lovely ballad on King Henry's Conquest of France .... essentially, Shakespeare's Henry V in ballad form. Drinkin' Wine Spo-dee-o-dee, Legal Matter, It Won't Be Long also terrific, among many gems.

Over and out!

-- Kelly K
Sun 5/11/2003 12:52 PM

"And when I get to heaven..."

(I'm not sure this will make sense to anyone else out there,but here goes)

As long as I can recall I've "known" that the pleasures of heaven are unimaginable to us, and that when we get there our consciousness will be wiped clean and earthly concerns will no longer be of interest. I don't know who told me that; I do recall wondering about from a very early age. I was brought up Protestant; my father was a minister of the First Hungarian Reformed Church. Whether this is a tenet of that church, I do not know. So many things didnt ring true to me in my religion, even as a small child, but this heaven thing seemed reasonable and mysterious at once. (I'd also heard, of course, the standard Protestant heaven stories involving meeting God (a large bearded man in a radiant white gown) and Jesus (seated at his right hand) and being reunited with your dead relatives.)

When I first heard this song, when we first started figuring out the words, the aura of Sept 11 was still very thick (and live music was even *more* precious at that time) and I was I was very unsettled by this song. It made me feel despair and longing. I thought: these beliefs are so extreme, and the values so different than mine, that there's no hope we and those who believe this will ever find a common ground. We are doomed. Also, chillingly, I could see this point: that on the spiritual journey the path is clearer if you eschew sensory and intellectual distractions. And that when you get to heaven all your pain and weariness is taken away--you are beyond individual self-awareness, as BW said. (And who *doesnt* curse that deadly atom war?)

The song seemed ambiguous to me for quite some time, and very very provocative. I knew that RT wasn't supporting his narrator's viewpoint but he was doing a brilliant job explaining/describing it...enough so that I could almost buy it?! And yet, deliciously, perversely, the music was (still is) so enthralling, so seductive ---the rhythm and the melody and his voice and that guitar---(and now with the band and the gorgeous instrumentation)---it's the complete RT sensual package, innit? Swoon. And yet at the same time my thoughts were moving in a pretzel knot thinking the thoughts described above and wondering at RT's ability to evoke all these contradictory ideas and feelings in one song.

Now, having read what he told Pam in the Paste interview, I don't think he intended it to work this way..but would he tell us if he had?

Louise in Chicago
(what if there ARE bartenders up there in heaven?)
Mon 5/12/2003 11:33 PM

RT at House of Blues Friday May 16 (LONG)

Ok, I tried to write this last night when I got home, but I was just too wiped out. A Friday concert after a full week of work, 2 beers (I know, I'm a lightweight anymore) and of course I MUST stand right at the front, and staked out a place EARLY, so I was on my feet a long time.'s a setlist, mostly by memory + some comparison to early ones. Amir, others? Can fill in gaps. Judith Owen joined in where indicated:

Tear Stained Letter
Pearly Jim
Outside of the Inside
Razor Dance
Missie how you let me down
Al Bowlly
Can't Win
The way that is shows
Jealous Words (w JO)
Crawl Back
I'll Tag Along
Shoot out the Lights
I Misunderstood
One door Opens (w JO)
Wall of Death
Happy Days and Old Lang Syne
Two left Feet
So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo
Man in Need
Bright Lights
Words Unspoken (w JO)

After the first two or three songs I thought that RT sounded a little congested, and sure enough after a couple more, the first time he spoke at length he said he had a cold.  "So if you hear my voice break, it's with emotion...and a little something extra" he remarked. He had a water bottle full of a bright red/orange liquid (Gator aide or so such, I guess) and I also saw him at least once take a spoonful of something back by the drum riser... I thought he looked tired, and perhaps like he felt a little woozy at times. Having said all that, he seemed especially tickled all night. Positively BEAMED at the first singalong (to Tear Stained Letter). Just seemed happy and amused all night. I thought perhaps it was sort of the hometown thing, although early on he said something about happy to be in YOUR town. Someone yelled out "Your town too!" and he said, after the perfectly timed pause "...sometimes..."

Now, I would put myself on the side of the folks who felt that the Mock Tudor band had that certain something extra that put it a touch ahead of the current line up. I think it has to do with the meshing of the rhythm section. Earl is busier and heavier-handed (i.e. louder) than MJ, and though I really enjoyed his playing, I think it was perhaps difficult for Rory and he to really become the percolating unit that MJ and DT were. At the end of (I think) Razor Dance one my stage front pals said "Oh, really missed Danny Thompson on that one."

However, this is minor stuff..the band really sounds great, and with that material....

I don't have OKB yet, so this was my very first time hearing Pearly Jim, and I thought it was great! 

2 left Feet Variant: Dance with Rory, dance with Pete.

We ate at the HOB restaurant, and a couple of tables over, I spied, I thought Pete Zorn, and pointed him out to my companions. Then when he came on stage, I realized, no...that wasn't Pete..he was perhaps a bit younger, and his hair was browner (i.e. less grey), and longer. I know his brother John is a musician too, and have never seen him so perhaps it was he.

Highlights: Most of the solos. People around me were muttering in amazement after almost every one. I marveled at RT's energy and invention, when it really seemed he did not feel well. Each one seemed better and more interesting than the next. On one of the encores he did some things with harmonics and playing the strings up by the tuning pegs-I don't think I've seen him do this before-sounded incredible! The solo on Can't Win sounded painful to me- not actually causing me pain, but evoking the feeling- yearning and despairing- I tend to close my eyes and go with the solos and this one sort of brought me up short, and my eyes flew open -I wanted to see RT's expression, and see if the playing continued to affect me that way, and it did. It's really wonderful that he seems to have taken the cries of More Guitar to heart.

Not a whole lot of conversation, no comments on the Prez, more grins at the Crawl Back singalong . Several encores, ending with the one song I really was looking forward to hearing, Word Unspoken, which was lovely and we were fortunate to have Judith O. along.

Available were: both Kit Bag and Duffle bag (I had to get one of those!), CDs: 1,00 years CD (got that too), OKB, More Guitar and several more...I think Celtsmertz for sure, perhaps 2 letter words? Swag table was RIGHT next to an ATM.

Ok, I know this is really long, I'll quit with one question: Do we know, or has it been posted and I've missed it, which 1.000 year gig is the one on the CD? I'm thinking it has to be one of the Joe's Pub shows.


Oh, really liked Lynn Miles. Great guitar player accompanying her. Her voice/style reminded me some of Shawn Colvin.

janet [ ]
Sat 5/17/2003 7:16 PM

"Velocets, Triumphs and Nortons"

Greetings all. Thanks to Janet for her wonderful post about the show at the House of Blues in Los Angeles. Not much that I can add to it. Missie and Al Bowlly were, I think, the two solo numbers. And great to see RT, finally, with a tuning roadie. Heard him "lament" this on several occasions in the past.

Janet, your comments about Earl being a little too "heavy" in the mix may have been because of where you were standing. From where we were sitting, in the second floor tables area, the sound was grand. That of course is due to Simon's excellent mixing. But perhaps being too close, you were hearing the drums much louder than I was hearing them in the mix.

Through the good graces of a friend, we were able to get seats on the second floor rail. Harry Shearer sat a few tables over from us, so I guessed that Judith Owen would be there, and it was great to hear (and see, as she has a wonderful dramatic presence) her. Billy Connelly walked in a few minutes later, so that was very cool. The few times that I glanced over at him, he was intently focused on the music. And he gave Pete a wonderful standing ovation after Pete's mandolin solo in Shoot Out the Lights. Amazing playing from Pete...

Saw Simon before the show, and he very graciously agreed to give a copy of our book to RT, so that was very nice.

A great show, clocking in at just over two hours.

And on another thread, I don't play music at all. In grade school, we all got lessons on the ukulele and the recorder. That was the extent of my musical training. And I don't "get" the concept of musical keys (as in, I can't sing that, it's in the wrong key). People have tried to explain it to me, but it just doesn't stick. Funnily enough, I also don't get the concept of trump in cards. I'm told the two are related. Maybe just too hegemonic for my tastes...:-)

All this by way of saying I can appreciate RT's work without being a musician myself. In the same way, I think I can appreciate visual art such as painting or drawing or film without doing any of it myself. Poetry is another example...


Amir Hussain [ ]
Sun 5/18/2003 5:41 PM

I am still mellow after 
4 hours sleep post-Fillmore.

I am one of the lucky folks who live in Santa Cruz , attended last night's show in SF, and will see RT in 6 days here at a beach ballroom venue which the band has never yet played at. But they do know what awaits them- Simon mentioned that Al Bowlly should sound particularly fine in such a room. Indeed! RT was a bit hampered by a lingering cold- his singing was not as strong as in the past, and some of his solos seemed cut a bit short, especially Can't Win. Nevertheless, the band made quite a lot of wonderful music. The new material is very muscular- this has to do with the rhythm section. EH and RM play with less finesse and much more of a rock sensibility than any RT band I have ever heard. Any opinions out there on this point? EH hits the drums very hard though he does nice things with hand drums, too. I enjoyed the different tones that RT got out of his 3 electric guitars-the meaty Telecaster sound goes very well with this band! PZ sang beautiful harmony throughout and I will remember this show for songs like Wall of Death where the harmonies combine with the majestic pulse of the music to sweep the listener along.

Season of the Witch was a treat. Pearly Jim, though not a personal favorite, was very fine,again the harmony -driven chorus caught me up and kicked me along. The wee guitar break after each verse was great fun , kind of an ironic break from the main riff. So Ben Mi was played similarly - a reminder that they were rocking the house in the 16th century too. 52VBL was ragged, but it is undeniably a great song. Am I tired of it? I suppose so, but then we get Missy and CW.

I spoke with several folks standing nearby about their RT experience and none of them had ever seen a band show. In general, the crowd was much more reserved that the previous 2 Fillmore appearances-older, much less Cannabis smoking, and less demonstrative overall. My companion , at her first-ever RT concert, noted the dearth of women in the crowd. Looked to be about 60/40 to me , maybe even more skewed. She put it down to the 'guitar god syndrome' though I did not witness anyone playing air guitar! Comments on this point?

All in all , I had a great time. And I look forward to next Sat. night when RT should be over his cold and the ghost of Al Bowlly,looking out across a bona fide ballroom dance floor, will receive his proper due.

Ed G. [ ]
Sun 5/18/2003 6:54 PM

Thompson still trades in unsettling intensity

By Tony Montague

Growing up in London during the 1950s and '60s, Richard Thompson absorbed a spectrum of songs and sounds, from Edwardian vaudeville ditties to the surrealist moodscapes of Bob Dylan to numbers from the early psychedelic scene. But his most important influence was the roots music of the English and the Celts, something he took largely for granted at the time. "I listened to a certain amount--more Scottish than English, because my family was Scottish," says Thompson, one of the world's finest contemporary songwriters and a legendary guitarist, calling in from L.A. "One got fed a certain amount of sanitized Victorian versions of folk at school, so I started going to Bunjie's coffee bar [in central London] to hear people like Bert Jansch or John Renbourn. I slowly absorbed it, without thinking there was anything remotely hip or useful, because obviously the rock 'n' roll stuff was a lot more exciting, and the thing to do."

The self-titled debut album of Fairport Convention, the band Thompson cofounded in 1967, consisted mostly of North American­ style soft rock. But soon the quintet's rich harmonies and guitar-based sound drew on folk traditions closer to home. "In 1968 we looked at ourselves and said we really should be interpreting music from Britain, and that if we took traditional songs and instrumentals and turned it into something more contemporary--fused it with electricity and a backbeat--this could be something exciting, and more valid for us. So that's what we did. In a sense I'm still there stylistically. I think traditional British music is still the strongest root for me."

Fairport's sophomore album, What We Did on Our Holidays, effectively established a new genre: British folk-rock. Its highlights include late singer Sandy Denny's soulful interpretation of the traditional Irish ballad "She Moves Through the Fair" and Thompson's first classic composition, "Meet on the Ledge". His predilection for dark and emotionally daring lyrics only deepened over the years.

After he left Fairport in 1971, Thompson put out six albums of songs during an eight-year period, in partnership with his wife, Linda Thompson. Shoot Out the Lights, the last in the series, was recorded as the pair were breaking up. It was voted one of the top-10 albums of the '80s by Rolling Stone.

For the past two decades Thompson, who brings a four-piece band to the Commodore on Wednesday (May 21), has regularly released recordings on the Polydor and Capitol labels. The songs were almost always brilliant, but ornate production often failed to enhance their stark scenarios. Two years ago, Thompson was dropped by Capitol, and is now on the U.K. indie label Cooking Vinyl. On the evidence of this month's The Old Kit Bag--released in Canada on True North Records--it may be the best thing that could have happened to him. His new songs with a small band are more intimate than anything he's done in the past decade. The searing guitar on the lopsided waltz "Jealous Words", the howling vocals on "A Love You Can't Survive", and the chilling lyrics of "Outside of the Inside" (for which Thompson adopts the persona of an Islamic fundamentalist) all have the unsettling intensity that has characterized the singer's finest work. "The idea was to have a fairly straight-ahead and in-your-face production, to use acoustic bass all the way through, to have the band play on every song regardless of how loud or quiet it got, and to record fairly sparsely. We did most of it as a trio, with a few overdubs."

Thompson continues to meld a diversity of styles into something uniquely his own, but the folk music of Britain remains his foundation. "To me that's very important," he says. "If you have a base in your own traditions you can be influenced by others, and take little bits of them into your own without being a plagiarist. It's a balance. These days there's so much music available, you can grow up anywhere and hear just about any kind of music. I suppose that 100 years ago--or pregramophone--people would have cherished every musical experience of their lives, and been influenced by that. Today you almost have to select your influences, and say, 'I reject 98 percent of what I hear, but I'm trying to be influenced by this, this, and this.' It's a funny reversal, really, but I think it's what we all have to do."

Flip Feij [ ]
Wed 5/21/2003 5:39 PM

May 20 RT show in Seattle

Wow! That's about all I have time for right now. Didn't keep a setlist, but RT rocked! This was my first band show, third overall.

RT seemed very relaxed, maybe a bit reserved, but not without humor. He just seemed like he was so focused, and "together". I didn't hear a bad note all night, he totally screamed on some guitar solos. The band was so tight and professional and they just seemed to be "in the groove". I agree with others about Rory (Raury, whatever)--he was tight, precise and completely professional, but no (nobody else is!) Danny Thompson. Pete did his freakout mandolin solo, and dropped his finger slide (but didn't pick it up or make use of the mike stand). 

All in all....fabulous show. RT just seems like an artist at the very peak of his powers. I bought the black OKB tshirt and More Guitar (haven't listened to it yet).

I heard 1952 VBL live for the first time and it was practically the highlight for me--his voice was just so strong and impassioned (Harleys, Beezers and Triumphs this time around). 

James G [ ]
Wed 5/21/2003 8:40 PM

Raw, unadorned, inventive Richard Thompson's way

May. 22, 2003, Toronto Star

"I have to remind myself not to set boundaries," British folk-rock legend  Richard Thompson mumbles down the phone from Tucson, Ariz., halfway through a North American tour that brings him - alone, this time - to Hugh's Room Wednesday night.

"It's human nature to want to go over the same things again and again, work familiar territory, play what's comfortable. But given that you have to be driven ... by demons or whatever haunts you ... to perform in the first place, driving yourself beyond what's safe is probably the best choice, at least if you want to enjoy yourself."

Thompson, the granddaddy of the British folk revival in the late 1960s, a stunningly original, acidic guitarist and songwriter, and founding member of the influential and ever-evolving progressive folk experiment Fairport Convention, is still enjoying himself, the better part of 30 years on. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he refuses to opt for the refuge of reliving past accomplishments, preferring the danger and risk of live performance and a continuous stream of new and provocative work. His most recent album, The Old Kit Bag, provides abundant evidence that Thompson has lost none of his edge. It's a tough and nervy recording, very much a band effort (standup bassist Danny Thompson and drummer Michael Jerome provide the compelling rhythms that drive most of the pieces, and Judith Owen sings occasional background vocals), very raw and unadorned. "It's in-your-face, yes," chuckles Thompson, who'll be playing "six or seven" of the new songs solo on Wednesday night, as well as material from his vast and varied past repertoire.

"We made the recording as live-sounding as possible. There are very few overdubs. Performing live is best ... both on stage and in the studio, it allows for a more intense kind of communication. I love playing, never get tired of it. It's what keeps me going."

Quietly spoken and formally polite, Thompson is nevertheless evasive when asked why he's performing here without his band mates. "Well, technically the first leg of the North American tour is over, and this is more a promotional gig to draw attention to the new record and lay the groundwork for a show with the band in July," he says. "We're doing some European dates before coming back her later in the summer. "Toronto is so dear to us ..."

He throws that line out with a smirk in his voice, mocking the kind of fake and cynical camaraderie road-worn rockers attempt to establish with local audiences everywhere they play. It's a taste of the kind of acerbic honesty and bent humour conveyed in many of his trademark songs. You'll hear more of that in "Jealous Words," "I'll Tag Along," "She Said It Was Destiny" and "Pearly Jim" on the new album, which contains narrative elements of traditional balladry - Thompson's bedrock - combined with blistering guitar rock and North African melodic forms.

"All songs start out as solo pieces," he explains. "I have to find a way of playing them on my own before I even bring them to the band. Some just develop as band songs, and others, you know from the beginning, are just meant to be band pieces.

"I tend to put the songs I write into piles. When I have enough in one pile, I start recording them. I have a band pile, a solo pile, and a couple of other piles for other projects. These are songs from the most recent band pile.

"I just took the ones that naturally hang together. There's no overwhelming theme or aesthetic in them, other than that there's generally a couple of common threads in songs written in the same period, and that they're recorded more or less at the same time by the same musicians, providing a characteristic sound and spirit.

"Traditional music is still the basis of what I do. I still see myself as a writer drawing on traditional music and what I learned from playing it. It's important not to stray far from your roots, as long as you draw on other influences as well, make them part of you, and become so familiar with them that you can use them in your music without being a plagiarist. "I listen to all kinds of music, from folk to Charlie Parker, from Shostokovich to Hank Williams, the best from all traditions and disciplines."

Yet nothing Thompson plays or records ever sounds like anything but Richard Thompson. He's incapable of mimicry - except for a lark - and a stoic individualist who has earned a devoted international audience, mostly without the benefit of big-time record company contracts and commercial radio support.

"If you accept that you can't rely on the established media to expose your music, finding your métier is a slower process, but more rewarding in the end. People are more loyal if they have to seek you out.

"It's a snowball that builds very slowly, but eventually it's unstoppable."

Flip Feij [ ]
Sat 5/24/2003 4:07 PM

RT in Santa Cruz - Photos

Was it worth it to rent a car, drive 90 miles from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, and drive back after the concert to see practically the same show I had seen at the Fillmore a week before? Absolutely! I split the rental car with Miss Lynn, and we got to the Cocoanut Grove about an hour before the doors opened, which put us pretty close to the front of the line. I had gotten permission to photograph the first three songs, so I staked out a place right at the stage, as far to the left as possible without Pete blocking my view of RT and stayed there through the opening act. It was the best spot I have ever had for an RT concert, and the stage was small, so he was only about 10 feet away. 

I thought RT was better both vocally and instrumentally than at the Fillmore. The one change in the set list, Valerie instead of Two Left Feet, was great as I like the former better. We got Henry Kaiser again, and I even like what he played better than at the Fillmore. During Season of the Witch, after trading solos for a while, RT and Kaiser jammed together, which just produced a cacophony at the Fillmore, but at Santa Cruz, I could hear what each of them were playing. 

Concerning the recent thread about favorite versions of Shoot Out the Lights, mine was the one he played at Santa Cruz. SOTL is one song that really must be experienced live to get the full effect. No matter how loud you turn up the stereo, those chords need the physical effect that only live amplification can provide. I don't care for Pete's heavy metal mandolin routine on a recording, but live it is quite entertaining. 

I have posted my best 25 photos at the following URL, just click on the RT in Santa Cruz gallery:

Technical notes on the photos, for those interested: I used a Nikon D100 digital SLR with a 35-135mm zoom lens, which is equivalent to a 50-200mm lens on a film 35mm camera. There wasn't as much light as I had hoped, and I shot at between 1600 and 6400 ISO. (Changing the ISO on the fly is one of the pleasures of digital photography.)

With the lens wide open, I could only get 1/15 or 1/30 shutter speeds at 1600 and no more than 1/125 at 6400. With a 1 Gb memory card, I got off 319 shots at 2000x3008 pixels, best JPEG quality for the three songs. I got a fair number of out of focus/blurred shots with the wide open lens and marginal shutter speeds, so I was happy to get 25 I like well enough to post. I did some Photoshop work on all of them to minimize the high ISO noise and remove distracting background elements. 

John Swanda
Mon 5/26/2003 8:11 PM

RT at the Home Entertainment show

I got to the Home Entertainment show at 6:30 for the 8:00 show, and it was me and a guy I'd met at the Santa Cruz show first in line. The man guarding the door to the ballroom was surprised anyone was lining up that early, and didn't know who RT was. Then up walks RT in a pair of shorts, and asks if he can get to the ballroom through that door. The gatekeeper tells him no, that they aren't going to start letting people in until about 7:45, so Richard turns around and starts to leave with a slightly dejected look on his face. So we quickly told that gatekeeper who he was, and he called RT back and let him in. RT wasn't going to tell the guy who he was. I was almost going to say something to him, but it all happened pretty fast and I froze. 

The first four rows were reserved for VIPs, mostly Dolby Labratory people, who were sponsoring the concert. About a half hour into the concert about half a dozen people in the row in front of us walked out. We talked to the gatekeeper after the show, and he said they complained it was too loud. They must not get out to much live music, as I thought the sound level was perfect. 

I brought my camera, and though I wasn't as close as I had been in Santa Cruz, I was able to shoot throughout the show. (There were a few flashes going off during the show, mostly from too far away to be in range.) After I get them downloaded, edited, and enhanced tomorrow, I'll send some to the beekeeper and post them on my photo site. 

John Swanda
Sun 6/8/2003 1:14 AM

solo RT at the Home Entertainment show (setlist)

--- Keith Turner wrote: <<I just came in after seeing a great RT solo performance at the Home Entertainment show - lots of songs played that I'd never heard live, including Alexander Graham Bell and Oops.>>

(how did Keith get home and logged on before I did? I only had to ride the cable car home from downtown and...)

Would you believe the entire row in front of us picked up and left early in the show!?! And complained on the way out that the sound was *much too loud*!!! What did they expect, quiet hootenanny? I'm gripping my sides in laughter as the show was presented by Dolby and the instant RT took the stage I knew we were in for a very special night. Sound was fantastic! The devilish side of me was wishing for some device that would enable me to take the show home... there was absolutely NO security. No need for photo passes either, as flashes went off all night.

John Swanda started to write the setlist while juggling the largest camera & lens I've seen in some time, so I took over with help on titles from Keith and John. (I knew all but one...)

This is what we heard tonight, RT solo in fine form and those leather pants:

King of Bohemia
Crawl Back
Outside of the Inside
Alexander Graham Bell (he flubbed the lyrics and gave us one of his most impish grins)
Genesis Hall
Cooksferry Queen
So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo
Shenandoah (he says he likes to sing American songs back to us as we've been doing it to "them" all these years)
Oops! I Did It Again
(right in here was much calling of requests -- he played a few mock notes of Freebird by request and said he was processing the rest for a bit later. Someone called out Meet On The Ledge to which he replied he will only do that once a year and it's not Ghandi's birthday, so onto...)
Ghost Of You Walks
I Want to See the Bright Lights Again
Walking On A Wire (one of the requests)
Turning of the Tide

Wall of Death (another request)
Word Unspoken, Sight Unseen

RT's performance was held in the Grand Ballroom of a very posh downtown San Francisco hotel, sponsored by Dolby, so you *know* they were showcasing their high end techie equipment. There were many vacant seats in the reserved section and the rest of the room was filled with RT fans, thankfully. Not a large crowd and even though we all had huge name badges around our necks (our ticket in), I didn't see several listees I was hoping to meet. (Jeffrey Soldau, John Morris, William Keats... were you present?)

I wish each and every one of you had been there to share this very special RT show! I'm thoroughly satisfied and crawling off to slumber now...

Miss Lynne [ ]
Sun 6/8/2003 1:59 AM

solo RT at the Home Entertainment show 
(long and rambling, but getting there in the end)

It was a very good if all too brief show - less than 90 minutes including the single encore.

Like a soap opera star at a boat show, the author of the long running serial "News From Home" was the bait added to the seemingly endless displays of very expensive stereo components.

I arrived around 3, and sat in on a seminar given by the staff of Stereophile Guide magazine - some interesting stuff on HDTV and MPEG-4's which is sort of what I worked on last winter.

After that ended I wandered the exhibits, which were housed on several different floors of the old part of the St. Francis hotel, just off Union Square. These very small hotel rooms, spaced as to avoid sound bleeding, would hold a very expensive stereo and two to a dozen chairs. Wax and tubes are "in" at the high end, I saw some very high tech turntables and lots of amps with rows of exposed tubes.

And speakers - many big enough that Judge Reinhold's line in "Ruthless People" came back to me, "and when you die, you can be buried in them". I was floored when in one room the salesman said the list price was about one of my years income - in line for RT later when describing this to Miss Lynn, a neighbor piped in that for some that'd be a pretty good income, she'd been told that the price of one set she'd encountered was $98k (far more than what I'd seen) - but to be fair that was for a pair of music boxes, not just a single speaker, so it's probably worth it. My guess is one sale pays for most exhibiters show costs.

The hotel has 2 parts, a new modern tower, and the older original section, which reminded me greatly of the Hotel Fort Gary, Winnipeg's Grand Old CPR Railway Hotel, though the FG has been renovated much more recently than the St. Francis, and is far less musty and muggy. It was hot, it was humid, and I have no idea why they chose to play the bland boring music they did to demo the equipment.

The exhibits show ended at 6, and in the 2 hours that followed I got a burger at a restraint with a TV set and watched the second period of the Stanley Cup Finals - "The good old hockey game is the best game you can name, and the best game you can name is the good old hockey game" being the second Canadian national anthem.

I hadn't been to the revamped Union Square yet, it had been under construction since I moved to San Francisco, and while digesting I sat there and watched the crowd. An art show had ended and teardown was taking place. A young couple dressed to the 9's - wedding or prom, I'm not sure - were being photographed, as were a Filipino family standing in front of the Corinthian column dedicated to Dewey's victory at Manila Bay. A couple on the far side of the plaza engaged in a marathon session of osculation - it may have been a half hour kiss, I can't say for sure if it went longer as it was still going on as I left. At least one of them was a woman, though in San Francisco, who can tell? Three east Indian men with huge yellow shopping bags sat huddled a couple of ties in front of the kissers, sharing, what look like anyway to me across the square, a series of jokes. Closer by a mother was crouched down with her dolled up toddler being photographed by the half dozen or so other members of their group. Bit of their conversation drifted to me, and it was in either Spanish or Portuguese (or perhaps Italian).

I ran into Miss Lynn in the line, and had a chat while avoiding being bashed by the door we were standing in front of, which opened into us on unexpected occasion. While I held place, Lynn found John Swanda at the head of the line, and also went and fetched us a couple of bottles of free mineral water, which I saved for the show.

They waited until the announced show time to let us in, but we found John and sat with him right at the front, less the sponsors rows.

As Lynn and John mentioned, the entire row in front of us walked out after the second song, which was very strange, but ensured an even better view. Some of them returned for the encore, my guess is that one person, the "alpha" of the group, found it loud and they all followed them like a corporate school of fish. It was very weird as it was by no means very loud, though an unusually high number of high tech idiots had their cell phones on and took flash photos from too far away to be effective, but enough to be mildly annoying.

Musically it was a treat. Crawl Back was played with a fierceness not displayed at the Fillmore show last month - and with a big finish that reminded me of how John Cale ended songs in the solo sets I saw him play in the late 80's. King of Bohemia signaled to me that we were going to get some variation from the last several times I've seen RT. While there were no new songs, I'd never heard Alexander Graham Bell before. He prefaced it by mentioning the high end audio show setting and promised to try to remember all the words, though he seemed to be reading them off a sheet of paper on the ground/taped to his guitar. He missed the intro to a chorus, smiling charmingly, he vamped and then headed right into it again.

I was glad to hear "Word Unspoken" at the encore. I'm not really fond of the band arrangement, and the OKB version kind of leave me cold, but I think it's a great solo song, and I await the definitive recorded version.

It'd been a long day, and I headed out right after the end, it was pretty clear that one encore was it, they turned on the house lights before the first encore, usually the signal to get out, whoever was in charge obviously had no stage experience and didn't know that most shows, RT and almost everyone else, leave time for at least one encore as part of the regular running time. "Well that's a mood killer", RT said as he came back on, then asked for the house lights to be redimmed.

Anyway, enough already.

Keith Turner [ ]
Sun 6/8/2003 12:09 PM