Richard Thompson Electric Trio: Portland Gig Review

Legendary Blues/Folk Rock singer/songwriter/guitarist Richard Thompson hit Revolution Hall, in Portland, Oregon on Monday, February 4, 2019. The opening act was a guitar whiz and friend of Thompson, named Ryley Walker who performed interesting semi-instrumentals reminiscent of the late Michael Hedges, except he included a unique style of vocal phrasing. Think Keller Williams without looping. Then he sang a familiar Tim Hardin song, “If I Were a Carpenter,” that was a hit over the years for a variety of artists ranging from Bobby Darin and “The Four Tops” to Joan Baez and Johnny Cash. After a short 20 minute set, the stage was prepared for the Richard Thompson electric trio, who began playing at 9:00 PM sharp.

Richard Thompson began his professional career as a musician in 1967 when he helped found “Fairport Convention,” as a teenager. His discography contains nearly two dozen studio albums, along with scores of others, including live albums, compilations, boutique albums, solo albums, soundtrack’s, guest appearances on albums and as a member of a group. He’s listed on Rolling Stone’s list of the “Greatest Guitarists of All Time.” The Los Angeles Times called him “The finest rock songwriter after Dylan and the best electric guitarist since Hendrix.” So it was with great expectation and anticipation that this writer attended his first Richard Thompson concert.

At 9:00 PM “The Richard Thompson Electric Trio” plus one took the stage and dove into “Bones of Gilead” from Thompson’s most recent release, 13 Rivers. “What’s my name? My name is trouble, trouble of the tender kind,” He sang as the band revved up like a 1970’s muscle car. After the song concluded Thompson joked around about the inaccuracy of being called a trio since there were four members. The band was comprised of the same musicians that were on the new album, including Michael Jerome on drums, Taras Prodaniuk on bass and the fourth man of the trio, guitar tech Bobby Eichorn on rhythm guitar. “Her Love Was Meant for Me” was a dramatic sounding cut, also from the new album, that gave Thompson an opportunity to demonstrate his guitar shredding ability with the rhythm section driving a hard beat.

“Take Care the Road You Choose” was from 2007’s Sweet Warrior album and changed the tempo as it slowed down to a delicate bluesy sounding number with an echoing guitar. Thompson introduced “A Tale in Hard Time” as a song that he wrote as a teenager when he was a member of “Fairport Convention.” He joked about how the song is over fifty years old, since it was recorded in 1966, as he began picking out a dancing Celtic melody on his guitar, with the rest of the band following with a driving rhythm. The way that Thompson broke into rich guitar solos every opportunity he had demonstrated his guitar playing prowess but without excess. “Genesis Hall,” was another “Fairport Convention” song the band performed that was of a slower tempo, but was still performed with contagious intensity. “Guitar Heroes” from 2015’s album, Still was a romp through some of Thompsons major guitar influences by mimicking the styles of and snippets of guitar greats like Chuck Berry and Django Reinhardt along with covering a variety of rock & roll classics by Dale Hawkins, Hank Marvin and others.

Richard Thompson

In 2011, Queen Elizabeth II, in Buckingham Palace awarded Thompson an OBE (Order of the British Empire). Time Magazine named “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” as one of the “100 Greatest Songs Since 1923.” Thompson played an acoustic guitar alone, while all the other band members left the stage. The song itself is an ode to the British custom made motorcycle that set the speed record in 1948 at 150 mph. His fingers danced with a delicate nimbleness on his guitar as he played a complex melody, in a Faheyesque style while using his droning vocals as an instrument accompanying his guitar. “But if fate should break my stride, then I’ll give you my Vincent, to ride…” “The Rattle Within” began with Thompson’s voice and driving guitar peals, as he switched back to his Fender Stratocaster, accompanied by Jerome’s exploding drum beats driving the rhythm like a steam locomotive’s pulsating beat.

“Can’t Win” from 1988’s Amnesia was a driving rhythmic ascension by the entire band as it hit hyperdrive, with Prodaniuk bobbing his head in front of the drums as Jerome beat his skins with a driving power that was as delightful to watch as it was to hear while it vibrated through the flesh to the bone. If there was any doubt about Thompson’s ability to live up to his guitar playing prowess legend, it was forever put to rest by the time they concluded one of the most phenomenal numbers of the night. “I’ll Never Give It Up,” from 2007’s Sweet Warrior turned into a jam as bass and drums once again cooked up a rhythm for Thompson to use his Stratocaster by pulling out all the stops and shredding his guitar with a driving intensity.

Bobby Eichorn floated in and out of performance mode as he periodically retuned guitars, adjusted stage amenities and donned both an electric and acoustic guitar as part of the band. Thompson joked about how Eichorn played guitar when he felt like it. Thompson traded his six string for a twelve string electric guitar for “Wall of Death,” which he co-wrote with his ex-wife and singing partner Linda Thompson. It was a beautifully melodic song using the 12 string to give it that jingle jangle sound while singing—“Let me ride on the Wall Of Death one more time…” After switching back to his 6 string Fender Strat Thompson began singing “Put It There Pal,” in an emotional tone of voice. His guitar began to mimic the grave and later the angry tone of his voice as he sang about betrayal by a friend, like the kiss of Judas, “Put It There Pal.” His guitar ascended and screamed with pain, anger, rage and insanely emotional guitar peals until it reached a hysterical intensity that was tortured until it exploded. The last song of the set was “Tear Stained Letter,” a classic Richard Thompson song from 1983’s Hand Of Kindness album which the audience sang back with familiarity. Thompson once again threw out all the stops as he wailed on his guitar with, Eichorn, Jerome and Prodaniuk jamming with the same intensity together until they ended in a swirl of sound and came forward and bowed to the audience before they exited the stage.

After a minute of clapping Thompson returned to the stage alone with an acoustic guitar and began singing “Beeswing” and “Dimming of the Day” another song that he co-wrote with his former partner Linda Thompson. Then the rest of the band returned and began playing “Pride” another song from the 13 Rivers album, as Thompson picked up his 12 string again for a totally rocking out number. The final song of the night was “Take A Heart,” a cover of the 1964 release by “The Sorrows,” a British band, from the 1960’s mod scene. “First you take a heart, then you break her heart…”

Review by Bob Gersztyn

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2 Responses to “Richard Thompson Electric Trio: Portland Gig Review”

  1. Jenny says:

    Richard’s lovely and extremely talented ex wife is Linda Thompson not juli

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