I went to Harrisburg, PA, last night for the last show of the Richard Thompson tour. It was a last-minute decision, and I'm glad I made it. As much as I've enjoyed the camaraderie of friends and acquaintances at these shows (and I've enjoyed it a great deal), it was nice to be "alone"-- among strangers--at one of them. That's what I wanted--relative anonymity, a quiet time (when the music wasn't raging), a place where I could just enjoy the band this one last time. This ballroom, with its phalanx of staffers trying to reassemble the seating chart from the theatre down the street (where the show was originally scheduled), its Texas-sized chandeliers, and its fancy-dress waiters pouring drinks in institutional glassware, was just the ticket. I saw one old friend and talked with some of the band and crew, but it was otherwise the solo experience I needed.
There was a strange moment before the show when I spied a woman whose appearance was enough to get me out of my chair. I worked my way through the crowd in an attempt to catch up with her, but then the opening act came on and the ballroom went dark, so I couldn't look for her 'till the break before the main event.
I found her at the bar. She and a less-fetching friend were trying to con the bartender out of a couple of beers, laughing as they failed to do so. She was a bit shorter than me, plump but not fat, dressed in overalls that didn't hide her womanly curves. She had long blonde hair. Her bangs were cut unfashionably short, but the cut emphasized her winsome eyes and turned-up nose. When she smiled, which she did often, her cheeks were round and rosy. "Excuse me," I said. As she turned and I saw her up close, I saw that the resemblance wasn't as astonishing as I'd thought, but it was still there. I couldn't tell how old she was--maybe older than me, maybe younger.
"Has anyone ever told you that you bear an amazing resemblance to Sandy Denny?"
Not the response I expected to get at a Richard Thompson show. "Sandy Denny." I said again.
"Not Sandy Denny. Sissy Spacek." She shoved her face forward a bit more, as if to confirm the resemblance.
"You look even more like Sandy Denny," I persisted.
"Who is that? Is she an actress?"
I began to explain who Sandy was. The woman seemed to catch only about half of what I was saying, though she was clearly intrigued. "When was she born? What color were her eyes? Blue, like mine? How did she die? I'm Marlene," she said warmly, offering her hand. "Let me get my husband. This concert is his thing."
He shambled over. "Guess who I look like," she challenged him, tilting her head.
"Sandy Denny," I prompted.
"Who is that?" Marlene asked her husband.
"Greatest English folk voice who ever lived," he muttered, giving his wife a better look through beer-tinged eyes. I explained to them about Sandy and my research. Then I did a dumb thing. I said, "You should go up to Richard afterwards, if he comes out to sign autographs, and ask him if you look like her."
This suggestion brought out Marlene's thespian tendencies. Her eyes lit up. "Will you introduce me?" she asked me. "What should I say to him? How should I smile? Should I do it like this?"
Suddenly I was unnerved. "Gee, I don't know." Marlene seemed very nice, if a bit drunk. And me, well, I'd had a gin and a gin and a tonic and a tonic and a handful of limes. Maybe my judgment was poor. Maybe hers would be poor as well.
In retrospect, I regret that I opened this Pandora's box. It's so easy, sometimes, to unleash things over which you ultimately have no control, to open boxes that ought to be closed. I spent a good part of the rest of the evening thinking about what it might have done to Richard--on what should have been a relaxed and celebratory night--to have this small blonde woman bound up to him, giggling, and ask, "Do I look like anyone you know?"
After the show, I didn't see Marlene again. I didn't see Richard, either; I don't think he came out to sign autographs. I'm relieved, actually. I guess they didn't meet.
(Richard Thompson, if you somehow read this message, know that I'm sorry for what I might have caused. It wouldn't have been a kind thing. People who read this list sometimes think that I know you. I can't say that I really do, but I know you well enough to know that the outcome of my suggestion wouldn't have been something you would take lightly.)
Still and all, I do wish someone else had seen her.
Hello Pam and everyone. Now I get to find out what a bad reviewer I am:
Harrisburg was the icing on the RTB cake for me, especially considering I thought I was done with getting to see them this tour. Because of the rescheduling, and thanks to you lovely people on the list keeping everyone updated, I was able to attend the concert, whereas I couldn't have on Friday because of family obligations. I called the Whitaker on Monday to order a ticket, and ended up with 4th row, smack in front of Teddy. Hooray.
Okay, okay, the show. Jeffrey Gaines was very good, and naturally happy to be back in his hometown. His set seemed a little long, but perhaps I was just impatient to see the band.
The guys were in excellent spirits the entire evening, and there was such a sweet, almost sentimental vibe since it was the last show of the tour.
Richard smiled a LOT; Teddy seemed happier, less shy; and there was much banter going on, including the presentation to Richard of a broken guitar as an end-of-tour gift. Naturally there were gags about the venue, which had been switched at the last minute from the Whitaker Center theater to a ballroom of the Hilton, giving the show an almost prom-like feel. There was much thanking of the crew, deservedly so, and the lighting guys were having fun with the ballroom lights for pretty much the whole gig. Danny had a marionette puppet, which Teddy couldn't resist playing with. Ummm, I'm almost out of time here . . . A highlight for me was when R and T hugged at the end of the show. Very sweet.
The musicianship was stunning as always, and the unusual venue did not take away from the quality of the sound at all, IMHO.
I absolutely have to close this letter, but if anyone wants a setlist, please write me. It was a bit different from the regular tour set and the Birchmere shows.
Take care all,
Pining away for the RTB already,
I rather like the low list volume! Makes me feel like I'm not missing much when I do manage to check in these days....
Here outside Washington, D.C., things are quiet. Yesterday really creeped me out. Rob and I went to the grocery store in the mid-afternoon and observed the masses preparing for doomsday. There was hoarding. There were nasty, impatient people. There was apocalyptic gaiety. I was very happy to be home again.
I dreamed about RT last night. Certain motifs recur in my dreams, especially when I'm stressed out; one of them is "trying to get to the concert." That's what this one was, sort of. I was at a festival. I went out on a road by myself and found a bunch of morris men dancing. Someone from the list was among them, but it wasn't Paul Woods; I don't remember who it was. Then I was at the festival, and I couldn't find the page in my program to tell me where and when RT was playing. Irene Henry was there. Linda Cohn and I kept swapping chairs with each other.
Then there was some kind of bland, pop-music montage to start the event--and suddenly, in the crowd, was RT. He had a guitar and a big gym bag that contained various amps, electrification, etc. He was supposed to be going through the crowd singing, and he was doing a game job of it, except that he couldn't sing and lug the bag around at the same time! A young woman with dark hair came up and helped him with it so he could finish the song.
During a guitar solo at the middle, he was taking advantage of small breaks in the music to scribble his autograph on small pieces of paper shoved at him. I was aghast that people would be asking for his autograph during the show!
He ended the performance standing near me. As people applauded and the attention turned to the next performer, he gave me a little wave of recognition and sang a silly little snippet to me: "La-la-la-la-la...." I laughed. He leaned in and whispered what sounded like "You aren't getting any."
This sounded inappropriately lewd to me, so I asked "What?" He said, this time, "I'm not ready," and I understood him to mean that all of this pander-to-the-public performing, of the sort he'd just done, was something for which he felt very unprepared. He seemed apologetic about not being "ready," and at the same time I didn't get the sense he particularly wanted to be "ready" for spectacles like this.
This morning, the crows are flying over the house in screaming twos and threes. It's a bit creepy. I would be very happy not to leave the house again, as I'm uneasy about plans to go into Washington, D.C., for a friend's party tonight. Too much hassle. "I wish I were somewhere, not in this town...maybe the ocean next time around...."
You'll hear more from me next year. Peace and parties to all, as you wish--
Fri, 31 Dec 1999