GIG REVIEW: THE LIST - Usher Hall, Edinburgh
3/7/2013 (updated 3/7/2013)

Inventive power trio show from unique and resourceful guitarist and songwriter

Richard Thompson - Usher Hall, Edinburgh, Thu 28 Feb 2013

Thompson, unlike Clapton, attracts a certain sort of fan that just won't listen to anything Clapton has done since about 1974. We all know why Eric Clapton's later music is largely absent from the hard drives of your average hipster, whereas respect for Richard Thompson is and has always been pretty much a shibboleth for serious music fans. It’s the writing.

Yes, Thompson is the anti-Clapton. He's not primarily interested in making you cry. He wants to tell you a story, spook you, amuse you, maybe even teach you a lesson. As a writer, he has what George Orwell claimed as his own great strength: 'a power of facing unpleasant facts'.

RT is of course the guitar soloist for people who don't normally like guitar solos. It's got something to do with his technique, a country-derived combination of flatpicking and fingerpicking which enables him to leap across strings quicker than those who just use a plectrum, and also to give each note an added harmonic twist by playing a more-or-less related note as extra flavour above or below. It's also about that most elusive thing, tone: phrases like 'a swan being blowtorched to death' or 'a songbird gargling mercury' are hapless gestures in the direction of his extraordinary timbral combination of ecstatic wail and metallic squawk. Finally, there’s his sheer resourcefulness as a musician. All those years studying Django and traditional reels and Arabic music have fused into something powerfully direct, and yet one of the best things about this gig was the spectacle of Thompson wrestling with his own facility, trying to find new ways of playing what he wanted to play. When Neil Young in electric mode plays those glorious, ham-fisted, stuttery solos, part of their greatness has to do with their sheer predictability, whereas with Thompson it's impossible to tell what he's going to play next.

Richard Thompson at 63 is still the same ornery sod that he was at 23. There’s definitely something admirable about that. I’m just not sure what it is.

Alex Johnston, The List