I am never quite sure where to place Richard Thompson in the scheme of things. Folkie or rocker? He can certainly rock, even when playing solo acoustic. He was part of Fairport Convention at their most magical, so definitely folk rock at its most innovative. He sings about sex and passion and motorbikes. With his signature black beret, dark shirt and jeans, Thompson creates his own image, looking like a political activist, but he’s a Sufi by philosophy. I thought I caught more than a note of quawwali singing in his vocals. And like many a folk singer, he sings with a different accent to the one he speaks with.

He is certainly a contemporary balladeer, with a loyal following, eager to see him on this August Bank Holiday Sunday in the intimate theatrical setting of the Buxton Opera House. Promoting his 'Acoustic Classics' collection, we were treated to what we expected, a concert of favourite songs, but with a few twists and surprises. A microphone malfunction was handled with ease. Jokes about Ken Dodd, requests from the audience, notably 'Crazy Man Michael' from 'Liege and Lief' days, and 'The Angels Took My Racehorse Away', a song he claimed didn’t work acoustically, but then proved it did.

Other stand out songs were 'Valerie' (was that only him playing guitar?), 'I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight', '1952 Vincent Black Lightning', and the heartbreakingly beautiful 'Persuasion'. As he said, "a song for every mood", including moods of paranoia and protest as well as his wonderful story ballads, a contemporary twist on a folk tradition.

With the barest of stage settings, it was simply the man and his songs and his guitar. He has such a presence, and he brings decades of memories and associations to his audience through his repertoire. A career of playing folk clubs and small venues has honed his connection with his fans. He takes a self deprecatory tone, wry humour in some of his comments. He left Fairport in 1971 because of “Musical Differences” and you could see the capital letters when he said the words, but he added that they seemed to have flourished since.

His talent has been recognised. His song 'Good Things Happen to Bad People' was nominated for an Americana award. His 'Acoustic Classics' collection is in the top ten albums chart now, apparently the first time he has scraped into a top ten since 'Bright Lights' in 1973. He proudly told us that he had the worst selling record in the history of Warner Brothers in 1971.

He played part of a work in progress for 2016, in commemoration of the 1914-18 conflict, putting words from letters and diaries to music. It was a dangerous move, changing the mood in the theatre, challenging an audience who had come to hear well known and much loved material. But it was appreciated, and he lifted the mood back up again.

There’s a dark side to him and his music too. There was a running conversation about sex and whether people still did it in Buxton, in contrast to his serious lyrics about the lack of information and education in his own youth.

There were young people in the audience, and I know he has a huge following among young acoustic singers and guitarists in this part of Derbyshire. But for many of us this was a night that connected with our lives so far, "Your future, your future/I would tell to you." Where we had been, where we had hoped to go and where we now found ourselves. Would you believe that there was a time when if I had a son he would have been called Vincent, after the motorbike and inspired by the song? It never happened, though I have two sons.

'From Galway to Graceland', a tale of obsession, was his first encore. For me he saved the best to last. His performance of 'Beeswing' was as raw as if it had been written yesterday. The lost love, the regret, the one that got away.

Unforgettable. The banter about sex, or the lack of it in Buxton, completely counter balanced by passion and loss. Not a dry eye in the house.

He was supported by Winter Mountain a fantastic harmony duo, reminiscent of the best of that genre and performing their own material.









Related Links:


http://www.richardthompson-music.com/
https://twitter.com/RthompsonMusic
https://www.facebook.com/RichardThompsonMusic/


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