Next month, Yngwie Malmsteen will be at the Granada Theater, the same venue where Richard Thompson played Saturday night. And while both men are celebrated for their instrumental prowess, Thompson is more than just a fantastic guitarist -- much more.
In front of a sold out and very appreciative audience, Thompson proved, over and over again, that a good song triumphs a great solo. Whether it was material from his great new album, Electric, or a song from four decades ago, Thompson played it all with good humor and amazing chops. After opening with "Stuck on a Treadmill" and "Sally B" (both from Electric), Thompson announced what everyone in the crowd already knew.
"Now, we are going to play the songs that most of you drove so many miles to hear."
With that, Thompson and the rest of his tight power trio launched into "For the Shame of Doing Wrong," a song from 1975's Pour Down Like Silver, the third album Thompson released with ex-wife Linda. Surprisingly, many of the evening's best moments were songs originally done when the pair was married. "Did She Jump or Was She Pushed?," "Wall of Death" and the always incendiary "Shoot Out the Lights" were obvious highlights in a set filled with superior musicianship and top-notch songwriting.
"Most of my songs are for people in a deep depression of those who are psychotic," said Thompson in one of many lighthearted exchanges with the crowd. Indeed, Thompson's wit belies the underlying sadness of many of his best efforts. Songs like "My Enemy" and "I'll Never Give it Up" come across as especially bitter commentaries on Thompson's romantic history. There's not a lot of optimism in Thompson's songs, but they are played with such good humor that they must have a cathartic effect on the artist.
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Sticking to that theme, Thompson ended the show with "Tear Stained Letter" from 1983's Hand of Kindness. The rollicking, Cajun-influenced song chronicling the end of a relationship ended the evening as upbeat as it had begun. Thompson's ability to cage the most depressive themes in buoyant music is a key to his greatness.
As great of a songwriter as Thompson is, there were still many in the crowd who came just for the guitar solos. And Thompson delivered on those as well. Aided immeasurably by bassist Taras Prodaniuk and drummer Michael Jerome Moore (who has played with The Toadies and Course of Empire), Thompson's playing is simply awe-inspiring. Any serious discussion of the best guitarists in rock music must include Richard Thompson. The guy proved it again Saturday night.