Review: Richard Thompson, Snape Proms

Review: Richard Thompson, Snape Proms, Snape Maltings, Tuesday August 21

THE notes fizzed from the guitar strings like sparks from some celestial forge, the cleverly crafted, justifiably acclaimed lyrics delivered in the distinctive howl – Richard Thompson was in full, irrepressible, flow.

The trademark black beret was there. So too was the trademark impish facial expression that hovers somewhere between mischief-making and wide-eyed bemusement. But they were outshone by the most telling twin Thompson trademarks of them all – the often bitter-sweet words, ranging from explorations of the darkest recesses of relationships to acerbic social commentary, and the peerless guitar virtuosity.

Two hands, six strings, but was there really only guitar up on the Maltings stage? Such was the dexterity of the man it seemed at times as if there was an invisible accompanist. But Thompson is a one-off, rightly hailed by many as the finest folk and rock guitarist of his or any other generation. Breathtakingly intricate runs, forceful rhythmic drive but never, ever ”look how quick I can play” self-indulgence – just beautiful playing that always remains true to the song.

This former Fairport Convention member who has notched up more than 25 years as a solo performer was welcomed by the full house with a genuine warmth born from love and respect – and he repaid with dividends. Guitar genius was combined with quality lyrics on modern folk songs such as the epic 1952 Vincent Black Lightning, the moving, lilting From Galway to Graceland, and the final triumph of a spellbinding set of nearly one and three-quarter hours, the incomparably beautiful and heart-rending Bee’s Wing.

Thompson revealed he has family connections with nearby Aldeburgh but had taken 40 years to secure a Snape booking. It was a “homecoming” that was overdue, a privilege to witness – and well worth the wait.

JOHN GRANT

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