Tag Archives: Richard Thompson

Wrapping up 2010

Wow, where do I start….

As evidenced by the previous posts I had a pretty amazing year of concert-going.  A near lifelong quest completed, an epic show I’d missed 30 years ago revisited.  A music oriented couple weeks in London.  Countless HOF members of the Rock Hall of Fame….heck a ton of them in just a single week.  Shows with good friends old and new.  Hard to even wrap my head around the whole thing.

Here’s the list:

Keb’ Mo’ – Coach House – Jan 14

The Blasters, John Doe, Rumble King – Coach House – Feb 20

Peter Gabriel – Hollywood Bowl – May 7

Styx, Kansas, Foreigner – Citizens Bank Arena – May 19

Richard Thompson – Royal Festival Hall – June 19

Green Day, Joan Jett – Wembley Stadium – June 19

Elvis Costello – Royal Festival Hall – June 20

Glastonbury – June 23-27

Jackson Browne – Albert Hall – June 29

Jack Johnson – O2 Arena – June 30

Laura Marling, Fanfarlo, Peggy Sue, Smoke Fairies – Hyde Park – July 1

Hop Farm – July 2-3

Jools Holland – Kew Gardens – July 6

Barenaked Ladies, Kris Allen, Angel Taylor – Greek Theatre – July 22

Blondie, Gorevette – Pacific Amphitheatre – August 8

Rush – Irvine Meadows – August 13

Al Yankovic – Pacific Amphitheatre – August 14

Scissor Sisters – DAR Consitiution Hall – August 23

Neil Finn – Largo – September 11

Muse, Passion Pit – Staples Center – September 25

Gorillaz, N.E.R.D. – Gibson – October 27

Bonobo – Music Box – November 26

Roger Waters – Staples Center – November 29

Roger Waters – Honda Center – December 13

Roger Waters – Honda Center – December 14

Twenty three shows and two festivals in all.  I don’t think I could even pick a “best”.  However a few things to note do occur to me.

Worst sound, Scissor Sisters.  Horrible mix that completely left the vocals out, and it’s not like I had a crappy seat, I was in the 5th row.  Really guys?  Totally detracted from an interesting performance.

Only show I left early, Jack Johnson.  It was okay, but very one-note.  I like his studio stuff, but in a huge arena it was lost.  Put the same show in an intimate venue and I might have loved it.  Add to the experience that I was a bit sick that night and it was just not a compelling show.

Most disappointing, Muse/Passion Pit.  Passion Pit left me cold and Muse after all the hype just didn’t live up to expectations.  Lot’s of copped riffs and wasted technology that didn’t go anywhere.  If you want to use technology look to Gabriel, Waters or even the Pet Shop Boys.  This was “sound and fury that signified nothing”…

Most intimate, Neil Finn.  The Largo is magic when Neil plays there and the September show was no exception.  An obscure setlist that actually added to the special feeling of the evening.  You knew even while watching this was the sort of thing that would never be duplicated.  Jackson Browne in the acoustic tent at Glastonbury was a close second.  While the masses grooved to Stevie Wonder….Jackson held court for a few hundred lucky folks and spun magic with his sidekick David Lindley.  Moving and unique almost sell short just how very special a way it was to end my Glastonbury experience.

Surprises…How awesome Gorillaz were in LA after disappointing in Glastonbury.

Bonobo, Midlake, Hot Chip, Fanfarlo, Laura Marling, Mumford & Sons, Two Door Cinema Club, Magic Numbers, The Bees….none of whom I knew before 2010 and who all get extensive spins regularly on my ipod now.

How great Rush could be at doing “Moving Pictures” after being somewhat average the other time I’d seen them previously….this show made up for that one in spades.

Disappointment….U2 having to cancel in Anaheim and Glastonbury…(of course it does give me a couple shows to look forward to in 2011 already…)

Well, that’s it…another year in the books, and an amazing one at that.  Curious to see what 2011 (and beyond) will bring?  But, it’ll be hard for any year to reach the heights of 2010 for me.

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Friday – Hop Farm

Sorry, I’ve been a little lax on my updates for a few days.  I’ve dealt with a combination of full schedule and being tired.  As this is technically a vacation…I took a couple days off from posting.  But, now I find myself well behind and need to start catching up.

Well, the day after the Laura Marling show I last reviewed I was off to Hop Farm in Kent.

Because of the distance to Kent I spent some time trying to work out the logistics of my return late that night.  London has this odd quirk of public transport in that the Tubes shut down just after midnight.  They have night buses, but those can be ram packed and take forever.  My departure and return point was from Waterloo Station, so I had a long distance to cover at 2am.  I finally decided that things would just sort themselves out and headed for Waterloo Station to catch my outgoing bus.

Feeling the need for some comfort food, I grabbed a Whopper at Burger King, then headed out to the pick up point in the shadow of the London Eye.  (Still never have ridden the wheel, it’s cool, but very pricey).  Lots of folks waiting with camping gear for the weekend.  At this point I realized that in all my return trip stress I have forgotten my hat and my sunglasses!  DOH!  So, it’s hot as hell and I’m going to stand in a field with no sun protection.

We board the bus (late, as they seem to be a bit disorganized) and head out of London via the twisting roads of the Southbank.  With distance and traffic it literally takes us over two hours!

I don’t have my ticket yet (Outside UK customer), so I’m directed to one set of tents, then on to another, then on to the opposite side of the field!  That alone is a 15 minute walk.  I hear one act (Damien Dempsey) end and Imelda May start.  Saw her at Glastonbury, but hoped to see her again.  I stand in a 30 minute Will Call  line and learn they don’t have my ticket there either…I was supposed to get it at the first place!  ACK!

A series of phone calls are made and I learn I’m not the first person off the bus to be sent on this same torturous path.  They ask me to wait and say someone from the bus company will come to me.  So, I wait another 20 minutes or so.  (The logistics of this trip keep getting more challenging at each turn.)

Finally a fellow arrives with my ticket and asks why I didn’t ask one of the bus reps?  I tell him that I did, and then recount the path I was sent on.  He apologizes.  I also mention I have a ticket for the next day, so he searches that out.  He says they didn’t realize that anyone would order tickets separately for each day.  An odd comment, since the days went on sale at different times…and their website didn’t have an option to combine the purchases?  Anyway…I’m finally in…just as Imelda May ends her set…darn.

The field of not very full, so I walk near the front for the next act, Los Lobos.

I’ve seen them many times, but it’s unique to catch them in England.  They do a tight and somewhat short festival set.  But, it’s a crowd pleaser and includes a lot of older tracks that I love.  “Let’s Just Say Goodnight”,  “Don’t Worry Baby”, “Evangeline”.  I think they realized that being in England called for something special, so they did a sloppy bar-band cover of “My Generation” by the Who.  They wrapped up with a cool mashup of “La Bamba.>Good Lovin>Good Morning Azlan”.  Very nice and put me back into a better mood after all the logistical crap of the morning.

Wandered over and heard a bit of Stornoway at the 2nd stage.

Another of the seeming wave of folkie UK acts I encountered this trip.  Not back, sort of Celtic influenced.  But, I hear Dr. John starting in the distance and decided to split to see him.

Dr. John is (as the Brits say), “Cracking Good”…tight band who tear into a mix of old classics (“Right Place, Wrong Time”, “Blues in the Night”, “Let the Good Times Roll”) and newer material (“Mighty Big Gap”) off his latest CD, Tribal.  I realize that with Dr John and Los Lobos so far this festival skews a bit older and bit more American than Glastonbury.

While they reset the stage for Blondie I head for the 2nd stage to see a British Blues legend, Peter Green and his Splinter Group.  (PG founded Fleetwood Mac and then later in the 70’s & 80’s dropped out of the music business for years.)  He has amazing tone and feel and I’m thrilled to hear “Rattlesnake Shake”, “Black Magic Woman” and “Albatross”.  So, not all American acts after all…This guy is a legend that I”m unlikely to ever hear touring the USA.  During his set, A fellow about my age sits down near me and we begin talking.  Nick has driven for the show and left his wife at home for the weekend.  We find we have many common favorite bands and end up hanging out and talking music.

We opt to skip Blondie after all and listen to another legend, Richard Thompson.  This is the 2nd time I’ve seen him on the trip, but the first show was the “popular song” show and this is his solo set with band.  Brilliant!

He thanks the crowd for choosing “Dinosaur Folk” in his tent over “Dinousar 70’s pop” on the other stage.  He’s quite witty with his banter between songs.  “Bathsheba” and “I want to see the Bright Lights Tonight” both stand out for me as highlights.

After his set, Nick and I strike out for the main stage and post ourselves to the right of the mix desk.  Nick has seen Van Morrison between 40 & 50 times…I’ve seen him once.  At 9pm sharp, Van walks on and leads the band into “She Moves on Solid Ground”.  He’s livelier than I’d seen him before and attired in a splendid summer white suit and white porkpie hat.

His band is tight and made up of (amongst others) and couple of musicians from Astral Weeks.  A great version of “Brown Eyed Girl” follows.  from there I really couldn’t have asked for a better set of my personal favorites.  “Help Me”, “Moondance” (which he doesn’t always play), “Philosophers  Stone”, “Baby Please don’t go”, “Tear your Playhouse down”.

Special mention to a couple of songs.  “Have I Told You Lately”, which Van redeems from the pap that Rod Stewart turned it into and restores from generic radio fodder back to a lovely ode on a summers night to a special person in your life.

“Into the Mystic” and “In the Garden”, both again are not traditional rock songs.  Both deal with love and more spiritual connections.  I won’t try to over analyze the lyrics or the meaning.  But, I will say that on a summers night in a field in England they were as close to perfection as anyone could hope to hear.  My friend Nick said that in all the times he’s seen Van this may have been the best one ever.  It was simply transcendent and washed away any of the previous hassles in getting to the show.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve had from this trip is no amount of planning will avoid a few problems…and yet, they great moments are well worth the troubles you have to deal with to get to them.  Much like life, the challenges give resonance scope to the successes.  Generally it seems that the good always outweighs the bad in the final tally.

Buoyed by the wonderful show, the magic of the cool evening and the amazingly great artists I just seen….I head for my bus.  And…it’s not there.

It arrives TWO hours later….

Shivering in the now quite COLD evening I climb aboard for the nearly two hour ride back to Waterloo.  Partway back, there’s a fight between a drunk kid trying to exit the bus via the emergency exit and the driver (a huge man that you’d really have to be drunk or stupid to mess with).  The fight ends with the drunk on the floor beside my seat and the drivers hands wrapped around his throat.

Well….

That’s an interesting finish to the day.

We reach Waterloo about 2am and I decide there is no way in hell I’m looking for a night bus amid all the drunks and homeless.  I grab the first cab and ride in style back to my room in East London.

Long day, interesting day to be sure….but, overall the good (Music and a new friend) outweigh the bad (logistics, bus fights)….

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Finally, a music review!

So, the shows have begun.  First up yesterday as Richard Thompson at the Southbank Centere.  A brilliant show called “1000 years of popular music”.

I read an interview with him where he talked about the basic premise that he devised around the turn of the last century.  He was asked by Rolling Stone to list the “best” songs ever.  He listed songs going back to the Renaissance…Rolling Stone wasn’t amused and didn’t run his list.  So, he created a show out of it which he has toured and even released on a CD.  One more thing to know about him, he’s also considered one of the top 20 guitarists of all time by the same Rolling Stone.  I’d guess he’s not one of the best known of that list.  But, if Eric Clapton is “God”…Richard Thompson is at least an Apostle.

I’ve seen a lot of flashy guitar players, but fewer who are as adept at weaving their playing in and around the vocals of a song…and in the case of this show the songs included Opera, folk music, Gilbert & Sullivan and “Italian Renaissance Dance Music” (More about that later).  He was joined by Judith Owen on vocals and keyboards and Debra Dobkin on vocals and percussion.

The show opened with a song about the Virgin Mary from the 1200’s, leading into a Scandinavian Folk Song called “The Three Ravens”.  The ravens being al lively tune about a dead knight being eaten by carrion birds.  From there we moved quickly through the centuries into a variety of styles.  Each song was introduced by some witty comments and a brief bit of history, that kept this from being a dry academic exercise and really brought the songs (and the show to life).  This was also a family friendly matinee.  At one point as he tuned his guitar there a loud crying baby from somewhere deep in the hall…his quip, “Yeah, I hate tuning as well”…of course I’m sure with the timing is was much funnier in person than it reads on paper.

The show really seemed to catch fire with Shenandoah, a sea chanty originally that we all know as a folk song.  It was for me a bit like seeing Macbeth the day before.  That moment where the familiar comes to life and is seen in a new light.  Something that even the recent Bruce Springsteen version of this song was less successful at achieving as Thompson was able to with his simple guitar arrangement and light Scottish accent.

From there the show continued strong with a song from the 1800’s (Black Leg Miner), British Music Halls (Trafalger Square) and some Gilbert & Sullivan (A tune from Yeoman of the Guard).

After a brief intermission he returned and tackled the 20th Century.  Java Jive, Cole Porter (Night & Day) and then finally arriving at rock and roll and country.  “Breathless” lead into “Jackson” followed by an obscure Kinks song called “See my Friends” based on a chant they heard fishermen singing in India.  “Friday on my Mind” lead to what he billed as the only good song from the 80’s…(sadly it’s title escaped me, it’s main lyric was “change your heart”).

Then we circled back in time a bit.  His verion of “Opps, I did it again”…(Yeah, the Britney Spears song…) included a break where he preformed the song as Italian Renaissance Dance Music….and yes, it actually worked.  He showed how close the cord structures mimicked each other…Brilliant!

The encores were just as eclectic.  A song written by Richard the Lion Hearted in 1192, he said he was one of the first popular “singer-songwriters”, “Cry Me A River” and finally a rollicking version of “Twist and Shout”.

A really wonderful start to the music of my trip!

If you’re interested, here’s a clip:

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The final countdown

Spent the day trying to wrap up a couple projects at work before I leave town.  Feeling the stress.

I’ve never taken a three week vacation in my adult life.  Off sick a couple times that long, out of work once in the 80’s for a few months.  But, never a vacation.  It feel really odd to have to walk away from a few large bids that are hanging out there and undecided.  I think I’m going to have ask someone in the office to send me an e-mail or something when they have news….or, maybe I’ll be able to put it all out of my mind after a couple days?  We’ll see.

Bought my Green Day tickets for Wembley…so, I’ll be seeing them on Saturday along with Joan Jett and Frank Turner.  First concert doubleheader I can recall doing.  Seeing Richard Thompson in the afternoon, then rushing to Wembley for Green Day…should be a blast.

Heck, the stress of rushing from show to show may be a challenge…but, it’s once in a lifetime, so I’m trying to fit it all in!

Now I’ll see Wembley, the O2, Albert Hall, Hyde Park, Queens Hall and the two Festivals…Hop Farm and Glastonbury…!!!

Wow, a laundry list of all the famous venues in London in one trip…just over a day until take off!

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My Concert Agenda for London

Well, since this is going to be a trip mostly about seeing concerts, I now have most of my shows scheduled and tickets bought…Only one more show to still book, and more about that later.

The Plan:

June  19 – Richard Thompson – “1000 years of popular song”.  I have the CD of this show he did a few years back.  He touches on songs from the 12th century right on up to Bowling for Soup.  This is part of the Meltdown Festival at the Royal Festival Hall and he’s one of those guys who somehow I’ve missed each time he’s passed through town.  Critically, he’s names as one of the top 20 all time guitarists.

June 20 – Elvis Costello – Solo Acoustic. Also part of Meltdown.  Really, what can you say about him?  Plus, seeing him in London…should be awesome!

June 23-27 – Glastonbury….MUCH more about this later…

June 29 – Jackson Browne & David Lindley.  Found a great single floor seat for Royal Albert Hall when I get back from Glasto.  They are playing twice at the festival, but knowing I can see them here will free me up for others acts at the festival itself and reduces my potential clash list of bands by one.

June 30 – Jack Johnson at O2 Arena.  Another show I found a great single for.  Love his music and never seen him live.  He’s also playing Glastonbury, but for the reasons above, knowing I’ll see him in London takes another potential conflict away at Glasto.

July 1 – Laura Marling – Serpentine Sessions in Hyde Park.  Honestly, don’t know much about her, but the little I’ve heard puts her into the Regina Spektor, Imogen Heap class.  Close to my hotel (short walk) and I’ve always wanted to see a show in Hyde Park.  She’s also at Glasto and Hop Farm.  But, the setting of Hyde Park is too cool to pass up.  Support acts still to be named…so many be Mumford & Sons who record with her?  One can only hope…

July 2 – Hop Farm with Van Morrison!  Just amazing…a chance to see Van in the UK at a really interesting sounding smaller festival.  Still no idea who else will be playing, but Van is enough draw to get me out there…

July 3 – Hop Farm day 2…No ticket yet, but leaning this way.  Bob Dylan, Ray Davies top the bill….pretty sure I’ll end up going to this.

A small gap with the potential to see Dr John, CSN or Buddy Guy…still not nailed down…and I may need a night off…:)

July 6 – My last night- Jools Holland at Kew Gardens.  An outdoor show in a botanical garden with one of my favorite bands that never tours the US.  A suitable way to wrap three full weeks of music.

So, there you have it.  Less than three weeks that includes pretty much a who’s who of the rock and roll hall of fame (U2, Stevie Wonder, Ray Davies, Jackson Browne, Elvis Costello, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan) my favorite songwriters (Squeeze, Nick Lowe, Al Stewart, Willie Nelson, Jack Johnson, David Lindley) and newcomers that I’m enjoying already (Muse, Midlake, Hot Chip, Magic Numbers, Imelda May, Laura Marling)…and all to be seen live and in person in less than 20 days in the UK!

WOW, am I excited?…a little, just a little….

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