Richard Thompson to play a string of solo acoustic concerts
Guitarist Richard Thompson has written, recorded and performed music professionally for more than 50 years.
After starting his professional career in the British folk rock band Fairport Convention, the guitarist has since continued his career as a part of a duo with his former wife Linda Thompson, a sessions player and a solo artist.
Some of the artists he has performed or recorded with include David Byrne, Al Stewart, Sandy Denny, John Cale, J.J. Cale, Loudon Wainwright III, T Bone Burnett, Shawn Colvin, Bonnie Raitt, Robert Plant and The Blind Boys of Alabama, to name a few.
In 2010 Thompson was named by Rolling Stone magazine as one of the Top 20 Guitarists of all Time.
Thompson told The Park Record the secret of his success is his love for his career.
“I think you have to be excited about music,” Thompson said during a telephone interview from his home in Berkeley, California. “You have to be excited by the prospect of playing, and you also have to see music as a journey that never ends. You have to want to practice and continue to look for new ideas and ways to explore.”
That love will show when Thompson plays acoustic solo concerts for three nights, Thursday, Jan. 4, to Saturday, Jan. 6, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St.
The guitarist said the plan is to play an array of songs that span his career.
“I expect it will be mixture of some new stuff, including music that I’ve recorded recently, but haven’t released, and some songs from the decades that go back into the 1960s and move forward to the ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, zeroes and teens,” he said. “I suspect I’ll perhaps throw in a cover or two.”
Thompson, who was anointed Officer of the British Empire (OBE) in 2011, said he enjoys performing acoustic concerts.
“I like the feeling of communication, especially if you can create a stillness in the room,” he said. “That shows people are listening and you’re conveying something.”
That “something” can be as abstract as an emotion of the song, or something as substantial as the story of the song, Thompson said.
“You can feel if the audience gets it, and there’s a real sense of reward for me with that,” he said. “Hopefully, the audience will leave the concerts in Park City with a feeling that something has changed or that they feel more enriched.”
Then he quickly added, “At least I hope so. I mean, maybe the shows will be total disasters.”
Still, Thompson promised the concerts will include a half-century of his own musical experiences.
“I think everything you hear goes into the big melting pot somewhere, and it’s available for you to pull them out in certain contexts,” he said. “I mean, you may learn things off of records or you might learn things off of sheet music, but to me the most valuable things ever is to watch someone else play or to play with someone else and see and feel how they do it.”
One of Thompson’s most memorable moments of his career was performing with Jimi Hendrix.
“I was lucky to play him a few times back in the 1960s, and it was interesting to see Jimi up close and see what his process was,” Thompson said.
As a child, Thompson became a student of guitar music and would watch Eric Clapton, Peter Green and other British blues players.
“While they certainly weren’t really an influence on my music, it was interesting to see how they operated and what kind of emotions they put into their music,” he said.
In addition to the rock and pop players, Thompson also stopped into folk clubs to see Davey Graham and Martin Carthy, who were British fingerstyle acoustic guitar players.
“They had their own blend of blues, British traditional and folk styles,” he said. “So what I’m saying is that one style [like mine] is a mix of the bits I wanted to acquire.” While all of the aforementioned guitarists did leave their mark on Thompson, his main musical influence was the British instrumental band, The Shadows, who were known for the hits “Apache,” “Wonderful Land” and “Dance On.”
“They were equivalent to the American band, The Ventures,” he said. “But if you stuck on a Ventures album now, and compare it to a Shadows record, you will hear the differences.”
Thompson said The Shadows, which eventually became Sir Cliff Richard’s band, recorded beautifully sounding records.
“They had great guitar tone and were known for their incredibly eloquent playing,” he said. “So as a kid when I heard them, I though, ‘This was it.’ That was the first point where I thought I would like to play guitar like that.”
Other English rock groups such as The Yardbirds and The Who made an impact on the impressionable Thompson during his teen years.
“When I was 15 and 16, I got to see these bands,” he said. “The Who were very inspirational to me. I liked their attitude and their visual sense. So to see The Who play very loud in a 400-seat club was very, very powerful.”
Thompson started playing in bands when he was 12, and got serious about music when he was 15.
“Those schools band evolved into what become Fairport Convention when I was 17,” he said. “We turned pro when I was 18 and I’m still here and doing it.”
Part of Thompson’s love for music stems from communication. “When someone comes up to me after a show and tells me that they really understood the song, I think, ‘Fantastic. Something actually works,’” he said.
The guitarist, however, says he does feel uncomfortable when fans tell him his music has become the soundtrack of their lives.
“It’s because I have this sense of not really owning the music,” he said. “I feel like it comes from a different place and I’m merely the channel that pulls it down from the ether and turn it into notes. So when people tell me how much a song means, I don’t feel like it’s a pat on the back for me, but more of a pat on the back for the song.”
As the musical explorer he’s become, Thompson has no plans to slow down any time soon.
“The exciting thing is you don’t know what’s around the corner.,” he said. “I have finished a band album that will come out next year, and another long-term project I’m working on include a musical play, which might take me another couple of years to finish, and it’s exciting for me to create a longer work.”
Until then, Thompson is focusing on the Egyptian Theatre concerts.
“I look forward to coming to Park City,” he said.
Guitarist Richard Thompson, known for his works with Fairport Convention and his solo career, will perform at 8 p.m. from Thursday, Jan. 4, to Saturday, Jan. 6, at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St. Thursday tickets run from $39-$65. Friday and Saturday tickets cost $43-$70. Tickets can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com.
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