Richard Thompson

Posted by The Bay Area Crew, December 8, 2007 11:12pm | Post a Comment
Richard Thompson
Friday night, December 7th, 2007
Performing at the Montalvo Arts Center in the Carriage House

I know all of that is true not only because I looked it up on the net to verify my facts, but because I was there.

An intimate run of shows in this adorable town goes by the name Saratoga. Mind you, us Amoebas are in California, though I certainly would love to see Richard Thompson perform in an intimate venue in Saratoga, New York. I always loved that town. In Saratoga, California there are wineries and some really nice shops and no snow in December. (Unlike Saratoga, N.Y., though I haven't been to New York since this wacky global warming craze started, so for all I know it was colder in California last night.)

I grew up back East and I hate being cold about more than I hate anything except huge things like injustice, starving children and being stabbed. I do not mean to downplay how much I hate being cold, but luckily --although I have spent much of the last month freezing my damn ass off  --the intimate theater that Richard Thompson played in this week was only a chilly place. Not freezing, not really even officially cold.

Richard playing at Amoeba Hollywood

One December, I went to see Charles Brown perform at Kimball's East also here in California and it was freezing in that damn venue. I am well aware of the massive tangent I am on right now, and I don't give a damn. I'd had my face smashed open by a car dashboard when I was about 16, and that night at Charles Brown, it was so damn cold, my face ached so, and I watched the whole show holding the right side of my face because, frankly, it was sheer agony. Now Friday night, December 7th, 2007, in Saratoga California, I was not holding my face at all. I will admit to occasionally rubbing my legs and wearing a few layers, long johns and all. But it's been a cold December here in Northern California. This all popped into my head because I was at the Charles Brown show with the same person that said, "Hey, I have an extra ticket to see Richard Thompson, drive on down here."

So I drove there. To Saratoga, California, because my friend knows things. She knew for a fact that I was on the fringe of ever getting Richard Thompson. I wasn't there yet. In the early 90's she realized this about me and jazz, and off we went. Live jazz. I got it, I loved it, and it forever changed my life. So, you're never going to guess what happened when she took me to see Richard Thompson. Yeah. I loved it and I feel changed. I'm pretty slow in general, and I happen to be lucky enough to have people like this around me who will pat me on the head - gently, not condescendingly - and lead me to a chair that I desperately need to sit in.

Richard Thompson is very funny. I had no idea, because it's all very dry and smart. You actually have to sit down and listen or it will slip right by you. See, I have a real problem with whimsy. I have no sense of whimsy, and I deplore a sense of whimsy. It's always so dangerous when performers are funny, because I don't like funny and happy music. At least that is my basic dour disposition, which requires a great deal of serious and anguished singing. The shows were an unusual sort: all request. There was a glass container into which every person could write a request on and put it into the large glass. I wanted to point out that this was not a fishbowl, it was more like a massive glass that if I were a giant, I'd have make some very excellent and perfect vodka on the rocks. That says more about me than it should, but it is December, it was cold, and I can't for the life of me remember the last time I had a cocktail. I tend to do that, I forget things exist for long periods of time.

All of our scraps of paper in a very heavy glass container on the stage, next to Richard Thompson, his mic stand and there he was. Looking like he always has to me: the cap - a beret I believe, ubiquitous would not be an exaggeration. But it's not jaunty, so it doesn't bother me. I dislike jaunty caps as much as I dislike a sense of whimsy, for I am a dour sort. In fact, I really shouldn't even tell you this, but what the hell. My request in that large glass was Leonard Cohen's "Everybody Knows." (He did not perform my request, which is just as well. Dour.)

I was utterly destroyed and smashed emotionally by his song "Dad's Gonna Kill Me," about the Iraq War. There's some slang involved which means most of it went over my head, but I did catch that 'Dad' means 'Baghdad,'  and maybe the other slang explains itself.  See, I'm mostly a faggotty liberal type, but I also spend quite a bit of time thinking what it must be like to be an American soldier over there. I am sure the amount of time I spend thinking about being anywhere from 18 to 30 years of age over there just about scares me to death.

So here's Richard Thompson's song for you, seeing as it's about the biggest topic for our country overall. I want to tell you up front that this is very graphic and very upsetting (and not by Richard Thompson, someone else made it) but DAMN IT war is very graphic and upsetting, and the bodies are piling up over there. Literally. Don't press play if you can't handle what's happening in you know, real life:

Maybe you have to see Richard Thompson live to understand why Rolling Stone called him one of the top 20 guitarists of all time. Before seeing him last week, I would've immediately thought, oh yeah, top 20 folk guitarist is what they meant.

Now I know that that is not the case. The dude had my chin on the floor, bless his heart. Who knew? Except tons of Richard Thompson fans and Rolling Stone magazine, and probably you.

Scorching, and all the man held this night was one single acoustic guitar.

For the many, many people who are much more educated than my self, I have for you this once scribbly, probably not perfect, transcribed set list from the show:

Feels So Good
I Misunderstood
Dad’s Gonna Kill Me
Don’t Roll Those Bloodshot Eyes At Me
Draggin’ The River For You
Wall Of Death
If She’s Not Here By Now
Fate Is Only Distance
Keep Your Distance
Waltzing For Dreamers
Tear Stained Letter
Honky Tonk Blues
Waltzing Matilda
Hokey Pokey (The Ice Cream Song)
Be Bop A Lula
Cold Kisses
A Who Medley (My Generation, Can’t Explain, Substitute. Rocked ass-out!)
Alexander Graham Bell
Bone Through Her Nose
1952 Vincent Black Lightning
Dimming Of The Day

A smashing introduction to the man, his talent and now I can't wait to see him with his full band, playing whatever he damn well pleases. For my friend, who swoops in and brings me beauty like this, I say that now I know when I need you, and it's at the Dimming Of The Day. Thank you.

                         - The Insomniac

Relevant Tags

Folk Music (11), Folk Rock (3), Sweet Warrior (1), Richard Thompson (9)