Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry
I have seen this little known troubadour umpteen times over, gulp, the last 42 years, with full bands and on his tod, never quite certain which format I prefer, the squalling howl of his electric or the intricate calisthenics of his acoustic playing. This was the latter, a tour to plug his latest paired recordings, Acoustic Classics 2 and Acoustic Rarities, but by now means confining himself thereto. As with all RT shows, all bets are off as to what he will and is willing to play.
Support were Ben Walker and Josienne Clark, R2 Folk Duo award winners of a couple of years back, with a brief set, heavy on mournful emoting and, between songs, heartfelt self-deprecation. As befitting their host, they opened with a stark setting of Reynardine, Clarks voice resonant over Walkers exquisite shimmers of guitar.
A short break and on comes Thommo, his uniform of beret and black present and correct, launching straight in, a couple of songs before pausing to engage with the audience. At first I felt he seemed slightly stilted, a good few songs before he relaxed into the warmth of a packed and partisan audience. Not that his playing reflected that, being blistering from the start. No delicate folkie flowers were on show here tonight, this was rock busker par excellence, many of the songs from the livelier and more aggressive parts of his repertoire. Valerie, 3rd song in, was given an especially fine thrashing, counterbalanced by an exquisite reading of Devonside, something neither @SteveT , my designated driver for the night, nor I could recall him playing live in either of our previouslys. All the expected culprits had an airing, both Beeswing and Vincent White Lightning dispatched fairly early, despite being encores at earlier shows, the ‘big hit single’ (39) Bright Lights, a wonderful audience participation Tear Stained Letter and more. He acknowledged this as being the year of Fairport 50, describing the pleasure of teaming up with the old regiment, and a snide aside around rehearsals reminding soon of why he left, before playing his affecting version of Who Knows Where the Time Goes. One new song, something suitably bitter and Thompsonian about the crocodile tears of a rejecting lover being insufficiently reptilian, was also slipped in. Suddenly he was unhooking his guitar, yes, the one guitar, unchanged all night, and leaving the stage. Not for long, to shouts of songs not yet played. Turning of the Tide hollered Mr T aside me, which, after a splendid Wall of Death he duly played, leaving again the stage, before coming back for Galway to Graceland and I Misunderstood. So, roughly 90 minutes without a breather, fingers, if anything, getting nimbler as the evening unfolded, sometimes even falling over themselves as tempos were upped. Not bad for someone who reaches his 3 score and 10 next year.
Like a farm shop in winter, old and not as well preserved as the artist, your duo of representatives apart.
It made me think..
How long before the fingers fail?