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Richard Thompson + Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker

Venue: The Lowry
Town: Salford
Date: 19/10/17

Who knows where the time goes? It's hard to believe that I first saw Richard Thompson play live forty seven years ago [give or take a few days]. At that time ,he was still with Fairport Convention who were touring in support of their "Full House" album . However, a couple of months later , Richard announced that he was leaving Fairport to pursue a solo career ,one which has continued to this day.

The 1970 show was at the much-missed Free Trade Hall in Manchester [it is now a fancy hotel] but tonight's venue ,The Lowry, in neighbouring Salford, is spectacularly futuristic and a wonderful place to see live music ,with great sound and uninterrupted views of the stage.

Before Richard took to the stage,we had a short but delightful set from upcoming duo Josienne Clarke and Ben Walker. The combination of Josienne's gorgeous voice and Ben's subtle guitar was irresistible on a wonderfully eclectic setlist which included a soaring tribute to Sandy Denny/Fairport ["Reynardine"]; a touch of classical music by Edward Elgar ["As Torrents In Summer"] and a superbly moving version of Nick Drake's "Time Has Told Me". The duo also performed the lovely "The Birds", the title track of their new EP and "Chicago" ,a song about not giving up in the face of adversity .

Josienne and Ben have a Spring Tour next year and I highly recommend going to see them.

After a short interval , my ultimate guitar hero ,Richard Thompson took to the stage , acoustic guitar in hand. I have lost count of the number of times that I have seen Richard play throughout almost half a century but I never fail to be astonished by his amazing guitar technique.

Richard's last three album releases have consisted of two volumes of Acoustic Classics and ,most recently, Acoustic Rarities.

Of the Classics, we were treated to such "Hits of the Mind" [as Richard calls them] as "Gethsemane", "The Ghost of You Walks", "Valerie" , "Persuasion", "Beeswing", "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", "Wall of Death" , "I Misunderstood"and Richard's biggest hit [ Number 39 on the Charts] , "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight", which ,as Richard pointed out as a matter of local interest ,featured the CWS[Manchester] Silver Band.

Of the Rarities, Richard gave us "Push and Shove",which he felt sounded "too much like The Who" and "They Tore The Hippodrome Down", which has a similar feel to "Al Bowlly's In Heaven" and a similar theme to The Kinks' "Come Dancing".

Harking back to his Fairport days, Richard paid a moving tribute to Sandy Denny ["she was absolutely the best"] in a beautiful rendition of her classic "Who Knows Where The Time Goes" , which raised goosebumps all round.

Of course, this being Salford, Richard could not escape without playing "Salford Sunday" ,in which he, somewhat tongue in cheek "hates to leave this beautiful town".

For his four [!] encores ,Richard asked the audience to suggest songs for him , so we had "Turning of the Tide"; "From Galway to Graceland", [ a favourite of mine] ; a rare performance of "Poor Ditching Boy" from his first solo album "Henry the Human Fly" and , for us soft-hearted Northeners , an emotional "Meet On The Ledge", the anthem with which Fairport customarily close their shows.

A so ended a wonderful performance by an artist who has consistently produced music of the highest quality for five decades. If you really mean it, it all comes round again.

Peter Cowley

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They Tore The Hippodrome Down

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