sat 15/06/2024

Richard Thompson 70th Birthday Celebration, Royal Albert Hall review - not just a family affair | reviews, news & interviews

Richard Thompson 70th Birthday Celebration, Royal Albert Hall review - not just a family affair

Richard Thompson 70th Birthday Celebration, Royal Albert Hall review - not just a family affair

Special-guest laden celebration of all things RT

Birthday boy Richard Thompson

So it’s your birthday. Not just another one but your 70th. So who’s on the guest list?

Let’s see – master concertina player Alasdair Anderson, the "guvnor" Ashley Hutchings, Husker Du’s Bob Mould, bassist extraordinaire Danny Thompson, Fairporters Dave Mattacks and Dave Pegg, Floyd’s David Gilmour, Spinal Tap’s Derek Smalls (yes, you read that right), Martin and Eliza Carthy, onetime Strangler Hugh Cornwell, premiere folk singers Maddy Prior, Kate Rusby and Olivia Chaney, family members Jack, Kami, Teddy and Linda Thompson, son-in-law James Walbourne, old mucker Loudon Wainwright III, and that’s just part of it... And then there’s the birthday venue itself, the Royal Albert Hall, and us lot, the 6,000 paying guests who have sold out the hall long before the party begins.

Having once released a set titled Doom and Gloom from the Tomb, Richard Thompson’s repertoire isn’t best known for its celebratory, uplifting aspects when it comes to depicting the human condition, which right now is in such a state that "return to sender" is indicated on the packaging. But no matter. Your name is Richard Thompson, writer of enough immortal songs to keep the world turning on its heel for several more generations, and a guitarist able to capture the ears of anyone within listening distance, on acoustic and electric – few other guitar masters could say the same.

Back in the hall after 23 years, he kicks off with his power trio, the folks behind last year’s excellent 13 Rivers, and the bass-driven apocalyptic shuffle of “The Storm Won’t Come”. Like rivers, lives in music have their sources, and for the next song Thompson turns the tide right back to the start with his first guest, a schoolfriend with whom he formed a band, aged 14. Welcome, Mr Hugh Cornwell, and a tight garage band rendition of "Tobacco Road". Never thought you’d hear Thompson letting rip on The Stranglers’ “Peaches”? Think again. And so the night unfolds, with one surprise after another. Any evening that features Thompson playing “Turning of the Tide” with Bob Mould, Husker Du-style, then rocking out with Derek Smalls in his paean to the lady who “put bitch into obituary”, before sharing guitar and vocals with Pink Floyd’s David Gilmore on a majestic “Dimming of the Day” has got to be a special one.

Fairport founder Ashley Hutchings began by reading his diary entry from the day of their founding, and joined Thompson on a rousing “Jack O Diamonds”, while his Fairport successor Dave Pegg delivered an affecting “Down Where the Drunkards Roll”. Maddy Prior blasted out incest ballad “Sheath and Knife” with furious power, then harmonised beautifully with Teddy and Richard Thompson on Cyril Tawney’s melancholic song of longing, “Grey Funnel Line”. Marry Waterson joined Martin Carthy for her mother Lal's strange and beautiful song, "Fine Horseman", while Olivia Chaney took complete possession of “Who Knows Where the Time Goes” – a tall order indeed – and Kate Rusby did the same with a tearjerker of “Withered and Died”. Eliza Carthy astonished with an unaccompanied “Great Valerio”, and while watching veteran drummer Dave Mattacks play is one of life’s finer pleasures, add Danny Thompson on double bass and those pleasures are doubled. With Christine Collister, their group account of “Ghosts in the Wind” was a thrilling highlight.

Sadly for fans, Linda Thompson sang only in chorus, on the apposite “That’s Enough” from the 2014 Thompson Family Album and on the natural closer, “Meet on the Ledge”, with the whole evening’s cast gathering to open their lungs – including the 6,000 guests in the hall. Nights like this don’t come around often, and there’s no one in that hall tonight who won’t treasure having been a part of it.

Tim Cumming's website  @CummingTim

Nights like this don’t come around often, and there’s no one in the hall tonight who won’t treasure having been there


Editor Rating: 
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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So when will we get the live concert recording of the event? Or better still, the blu-ray video (with 24/192 audio) of the event?

I was there - great show, great night (apart from the bizarre Judith Owen). No sign and no mention of recording equipment either for sound or vision

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