Richard Thompson may be one of the best artists and performers you’ve never heard of. In a career spanning 5 decades he has produced often brilliant music starting with the band Fairport Convention in the late sixties, to his acclaimed work in the seventies with his wife Linda to his solo work over the last 40 years.
His work ranges from beautiful acoustic English folk to up tempo raucous rock and roll. All of his music is punctuated by his technically amazing guitar playing, brilliant vocals and great songwriting . He is truly one of the best guitarists on the planet.
All of this was on display last night in Bethlehem at the Musikfest Cafe at a show sponsored by WXPN. Thompson brought his Electric Trio to the intimate venue to play for an adoring crowd of about 350.
Over 2 1/2 hours the band highlighted material from Thompson’s new album “13 Songs” in between music from his entire career. I was not extensively familiar with his whole catalogue but that barely mattered.
His opener “Bones of Gilead “ and the “Rattle Within” from the new album stand up to his older material. One of the highlights for me off the new record was “Her Love was Meant for Me”
At age 69 his voice is as strong as ever as is his guitar playing. He showed off a little with a song called “Guitar Heroes” that talked from his personal experience as a teen learning guitar and trying to play like his heroes. He then proceeded to play perfectly in the style of Django Rheinhardt, Les Paul and Chuck Berry.
The center piece of the show was an amazing version of the acoustic “52 Vincent Black Lightning “ from his solo 1991 album Rumor and Sigh.
He ended the main set with one of his live staples, the classic “Tear Stained Letter” featuring aback and forth sing along with the crowd and an absolutely scorching guitar solo.
He returned for the first encore alone to play “Beeswing” and the hauntingly beautiful “Dimming of the Day”.
He brought out his bass player and drummer as well as his guitar tech for the final encore and tore the place down with “Trying” and the cover “Take a Heart”
While I was only familiar with about half the songs he played, it made no difference. It was absolutely fantastic to sit and just absorb great music live in such a perfect setting. Needless to say , I’ll be diving in to Richard Thompson’s back catalogue.