Richard Thompson - Live at the Belly Up by Eric Nielsen 03.13.07
Richard was on fire at the Belly Up. The show was a controlled, intense raging that pushed out the guitar sounds to amazingly solar levels. The acoustic guitar pushed so strong that it hypnotized..
And, the voice was great. And the songs were all there.
It was a pleasure to see the skills of this living legend at this level of proficiency.
Richard played for almost 2 hours, solo, acoustic. His guitar skills are impeccable. He does tons of finger roll offs, plays with open strings, different tunings and can play the rhythm and solo's next to each other as well as any guitarist. The way he uses open strings as drones really maintains a loud and driving feeling, a wall of sound throughout all the sections of the songs.
He plays with a pick but uses the other fingers on his right hand to lay out a barrage of specific notes and chord embellishments. This guy is a guitar players, guitar player. It was bombastic, at times jaw breaking, sad, insanely joyful, rocking and straight at you. The guitar tone was bright and right at you.
Ever since I saw him on the extra movie on the DVD The Grizzly Man, I've known that this guy is just one of the best guitar players in the world. He comes across in that piece with Werner Herzog and Jim O'Rourke as the perfect mindful artist, making up things on the spot, directing the band, matching the film and recording on the spot. You should check it out, as well as the Grizzly Man movie. You really should check it out. Really. Check out our review of it here
For his show at the Belly Up, everything had it's place.The banter between songs seemed fairly scripted but the crowd enjoyed it, and he had an excellent, mature, confident stage manner. Man, what a crowd, a Monday night with $27 tickets and it was nearly full. The crowd loved everything he did. They sang along with him, laughed at all of his jokes, gave him standing ovations and asked for and got 2 encores.
Richard's singing was also out of this world, it was really moving. I love most of his singing but at times I've had trouble taking some of it. Not at the Belly Up, his voice was strong and solid and excellent. His playing and singing were surprisingly powerful and spiritual. He played a 16th Century Italian traditional, stuff from the 70's, a Sandy Denny tune and a new one free on his website.
One thing I love about the Belly Up is their promptness. If the show is supposed to start at 8 it will and it did. That put Thompson onstage at 8:50, plenty of time to see two hours worth of music and still get home by 11:30 on a Monday night. So that makes the best two shows of the year for me, both at the Belly Up, Neko Case and Richard Thompson. Wow, what a blessing, what music can do, when it's done right. I just closed my eyes and emptied into it.