It was at the five minute mark of an almost impossibly intense guitar solo last night at the Kentucky Theatre that Richard Thompson's blend of jaw-dropping technique, tireless performance stamina and remarkably mature rock 'n' roll nerve came to a boil.
The song that established such a sublime pile-up was 'Can't Win', a neglected powerhouse tune from the British songsmith's 1988 album Amnesia. After the tune's dark storyline of conformity and mistrust was played out ("we harpoon dreams, we stiletto in the back"), Thompson, 64, let his fingers do some especially wicked strolling. He conjured long, sinewy lines that tightened around the melody like barbed wire. With the exhaustive but highly flexible groove of drummer Michael Jerome and bass guitarist Taras Prodaniuk at work under him, the break yielded an atypically solemn form of guitar shredding. Thompson's facial expression was stoic to the point of being sphinx-like. But the sound he conjured was like Armageddon. No wonder Jerome bowed his head in a fit a seeming exhaustion at the tune's conclusion.
And that was just one highlight from the nearly two hour performance.