Richard Thompson at the Wickham Festival, August 5, 2011
I was fortunate enough this summer not only to see Band of Joy in Russia (!!!), but I also got to see Mr. Richard Thompson a couple of times. The first show I saw was at The Stables in Milton Keynes. More on that tomorrow when I can upload more photos. The last show I saw was the day before I left England (yes, missed those riots by mere hours) was at the Wickham Festival.
The evening's bill also featured Martin Simpson, who I had seen at last summer's Meltdown Festival (curated by Mr. Thompson and reported on heavily by me last June). I think that many of my US brethren might not be as familiar with Martin as perhaps they are with some of the other shining lights of the UK folk world. If you do not know him, I urge you to search him out. Here's his site, to start you out. He's a real tale teller, and his warmth can be felt in everything from the song to his voice to the tone of his guitar. And, then there's that fretless banjo.
Next up was Rolf Harris. Do you guys remember Tie Me Kangaroo Down? That is Rolf Harris. He is still a vibrant entertainer well into his 80s, and the crowd loved his fun, silly, sing along family entertainment. "Rolf Harris? I have to go on after Rolf Harris!" Richard Thompson shook his head. "How am I supposed to follow ROLF HARRIS?" I think everyone knew all would be well, but it was a very odd series of transitions in the programming. It did seem as if every person in the tent was singing on almost every number, and Rolf brought the house down with a rousing version of Delilah. Why, why, why, indeed. (Oddly, for second time in as many weeks, I was in a room filled with a sing along cover of Delilah, this time by the Bay Area's Tom Jonsing - funny that, and also truly delightful.)
To those of you who have followed me at all, I know that it is apparent that I love Richard Thompson. And, while I am less a convert reviewer and more a photographer (you had not noticed, had you?), I have to say, that I thought this set was amazing. Words fail me on exactly why, so I looked around on line to see if any of my colleagues had reported. I did not find any reviews of this perforamnce, but two from his show at the Cambridge Folk Festival the week before pretty much say it for me on this show as well:
- Jude Rogers
"I don't know if sex is allowed at Cambridge. Is it?" Thousands of fans in foldable chairs and floral headbands cheer their reply.
"Oh good," Richard Thompson says, before launching into Johnny's Far Away, his 2007 ode to adultery. Such a civilised scene, soundtracked by details from life's murky underbelly, perfectly sums up the UK's premier folk festival, now in its 43rd year and still hugely successful. Thompson's Saturday show is the weekend's highlight. His voice and guitar have never sounded so rich, while his encore with comedian Stephen Mangan, a soft trawl through Fairport Convention's Who Knows Where the Time Goes?, provides the festival's most surprising moment.
Folk stalwart Richard Thompson delivered an almighty juggernaut of a set on the main stage at Cambridge Folk Festival 2011 on Saturday evening.
With barely a word to the audience between songs, Thompson called on over 40 years and as many albums of experience to claim his rightful place as one of the folk scene's true heavyweights.
Showing a virtuosity on acoustic guitar undimmed by all his years of service, the ex-Fairport Convention legend had fans swaying, clapping and singing along from the off.
He is remarkable. That is all.