With a beret, scarf, salmon pink Fender and a scathingly thick British accent, Richard Thompson took the Kent Stage by storm last night with hard hitting rock songs uncharacteristic of the artist’s folk reputation. “We’re a power trio but we’re not that powerful,” Thompson said to a roaring crowd in the middle of his second encore. “We can’t afford big Marshall stacks” he said before ripping into a cover of Cream's “White Room.” The artist rarely picked up an acoustic guitar as he pounded out two hours of electric folk music. His voice was still shaky at times but the set was as rock solid as anything out there as Thompson challenged his fans to engage with him, and last night they most certainly met the call.
Thompson recalled how the night before he gave a 30-minute set opening for Bob Dylan, Wilco and My Morning Jacket. The talkative Thompson went on to playfully mock Dylan lightly with short improvised covers and gruff voice impersonations. “Who needs Bob,” he joked. That sums up the light hearted feel the show had all the way throughout.
Thompson took one audience request, “Calvary Cross,” during the night and taught everyone the three chord song — F, A minor, G. It actually might have been a lesson for the band as the group struggled slightly through the song. That was the only hiccup for the rhythm section for the night as bassist Taras Prodaniuk and drummer Michael Jerome were truly jaw dropping and kept Thompson on his toes. Many times, it was the rhythm section that made a song powerful.
It’s a good thing the instrumental parts were as fabulous as they were because Thompson’s voice rarely filled the room and after four songs sounded generic and stereotypically British. “Al Bowlly’s In Heaven” sucked you into the life of a scarred veteran who still feels the wounds after war. All the musicians took solos on the song, and Jerome dropped coins on his snare for an effective low key drum solo.
In fact, nearly all of the songs had the audience in a trance as Thompson delivered technically complex guitar solos. Old classics such as “Dad’s Gonna Kill Me” and “She Loved The Lights” were well welcomed and expected. But, “Good Things Happen To Good People,” the band’s new single off 2013's Electric, was also met with loud cheers, proving that Thompson is not just a bag of old tricks. In fact, Electric is the artist’s highest chart topper ever. Maybe Thompson is actually onto something with his electric folk “wimpy trio.”
But he did go back to his folk roots eventually. For his first encore, Thompson came back alone and played two of his most well-known acoustic songs — “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” and “Beeswing.” Both songs were played with such clarity and elegance that you could not help but close your eyes and go to a happier place.