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Music review: Bob Harris presents... Richard Thompson and guests/Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

Dave Thackeray says the veteran folkie is stick plucking good

Published on July 20th 2010.


Music review: Bob Harris presents... Richard Thompson and guests/Liverpool Philharmonic Hall

HE floored me, made my cry. No clenched fists, only beautifully outstretched digits strumming affections and guitar in a display of fingerstyle unmatched by any I'd witnessed in my 35 years.

Richard Thompson is perhaps the most distinguished folk rock plank spanker on the planet.

Certainly the pundits agree on his status as one of the 20 all-time greatest - and next month, the proud father of a new record - in two senses - with the first-ever example of an album recorded live and comprised entirely of all-new tunes.

Thompson's other patriarchly responsibilities have included spawning another roots rocker in Teddy, best known for his last album, A Piece Of What You Need featuring the single In My Arms complete with a video cameo from Rufus Wainwright as Elvis. Progeny number two, Kamila, is another singer-songwriter of renown and veteran of recently-released EP, Bad Marriage.

Back to the Phil on Friday night and a lightly-peopled auditorium for this Summer Pops concert. Two hours in and I wasn't sure Fairport Convention's finest had been given directions.

Our host, Radio 2's Bob Harris, had rambled on at length about John Lennon and Twitter, softly interrupted by a couple of singers straight from The Waltons with the pitch of Machu Picchu FC and Nashville's man-sceptical country chanteuse, Diana Jones.

And then he came. Dressed in a size M version of Michael Jackson's Bad outfit topped off with his now-trademark jet-black beret, Thompson exchanged odd pleasantries with the Whisperer before plucking the first few chords of I Misunderstood, perhaps in context placating Jones' earlier fiery fury avenging love lost.

Waltzing's For Dreamers came next, another reminder of the totemic Capitol Years, before Thompson's newest banquet of bassy tunes were trotted out. The Money Shuffle, opening number on his forthcoming LP, Dream Attic, was a triumph and told a story of outrage and anguish in the face of our fiscal ne'er-do-wells.

Thompson delivers electrifying live performances, and both here and at his Meltdown Festival at London's Southbank Centre last month, he was at his disarming best. At 60, he leads the country's finest string plucking troika, with Martins Simpson and Carthy as wingmen.

On stage, unexpectedly pacier reworkings of Thompson's classics Bright Lights Tonight and Vincent Black Lightning 1952 brought howls of delight from his Philharmonic posse, and as proceedings drew to a close an interpretation of Sandy Denny's Who Knows Where The Time Goes? brought the limited crowd to their feet.

Including Harris. Goodness knows how much he wanted to get the last word in. Like the teacher stopping his class leaving the room at playtime, he of The Old Grey Whistle Test - 40 years young in 2011 - was largely ignored, but always treasured.

Summer Pops, you just delivered a blinder.

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