Actually the British came and went, with Richard Thompson performing at New Jersey Performing Arts Center with special guest, his son Teddy Thompson, on March 15th. Teddy is in love with American music.
In addition to touring with his father, Richard Thompson, he tours with Roseanne Cash and has his own Rockabilly band. He has a clear, pleasing tenor that is perfect for country, folk, and Indy music and you can almost hear an Appalachian flavor in some of his work. Not surprising since Scotch/Irish settled in parts of Appalachia and blending of American folk music and British folk music makes for interesting harmonies.
Teddy writes of the imperfection of love, as in “The One I Can’t Have” and “I’m Looking for a Girl,” as well as the imperfections of life, as in “Home,” the song he wrote for his mother, Linda Thompson, a major English folk music influence.
Winding up the tour in South Orange New Jersey is coming home for Teddy, who is based in New York City. Another favorite in his set was “Everybody Move It,” where what he sings could be your internal monologue, as you tap into the energy of a party, or not. Wry, dry humor are reflected when he speaks between songs and he pokes fun at himself as his father’s son. It was a great way to segue into the next part of the evening.
Richard Thompson reached for his Lowden guitar and kicked off his set with “I Misunderstood”. Among my favorites was “Johnny’s Far Away,” in which he got most of the audience to do a call-and-response chorus with him, in a song about the perfidy of men and women alike. Dark humor is a specialty of the house of Thompson. Another favorite that should be on an album for the 99% is “Pharaoh.” It’s open-sounding music and plain truth lyrics should have a much wider audience.
Richard has released a new album of acoustic versions of many of his favorite songs and the rendition of “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” represents the best and most moving I’ve ever heard him play. Some people cry at opera, and yes, I’m one of those too. This song combines the best of the troubadour tradition with a modern twist that makes it unforgettable. Following this with “The Sunset Song,” which has lovers parting in a different way, brought the energy up again and into a new place of contemplation. After a nod to Fairport Convention, he played another one of my favorites, “Good Things Happen to Bad People,” which comes off as a cross among a warning, an admonition, and advice. Yet the songs of his that touch me most are the true storytellers, such as “Beeswing,” about the ones that got away.
A quartet of encores with Teddy followed, including the duet “Persuasion,” which will make you catch your breath at the harmonic blend, and “The Price of Love.” They then left briefly, but clearly we wouldn’t let them go. We were rewarded with “The Fork in the Road” and, finally, “The Grey Funnel Line,” as the homesick sailors sing of home. The night was a little less cold, weather-wise, yet with the buzz of the audience gathering themselves for whatever was happening next, our steps were a little slower and a little lighter with all that we had to consider: brilliant contrasts in writing, playing, and singing styles, and all becomes one in the end.
SOPAC is a great venue in the heart of South Orange. When you provide your email with your ticket purchase, SOPAC sends you great information, like where to park and restaurant recommendations. Since SOPAC shares a building with a movie theatre as well, you can imagine that sometimes parking is at a premium. SOPAC’s PDF map shows you how close and convenient other parking is located.
Richard Thompson’s tour dates in the United States are many and varied. Check out his website at www.RichardThompson-music.com.