Web exclusive: Thompson phenomenon 



Richard Thompson, Eliza Gilkyson
Buskirk-Chumley Theater, Bloomington
Friday, Feb. 23

Here’s my challenge to you. First, take the sheer arc of the career of Richard Thompson: His band, Fairport Convention, was created 40 years ago and he’s gone on to have a successful career with over 40 albums. Secondly, look at his triple threat talent: brilliant songwriter, powerful singer and virtuosic guitar player (“Rolling Stone” named Thompson as one of the Top 20 guitarists of all time). Got all that?

Show me a parallel in contemporary rock and roll music.

We played that game after Thompson’s performance last Friday night, discussing John Hiatt (30 years, not 40), Bruce Cockburn (now we’re getting somewhere) and others, before moving to another instrument (keyboards; thus Stevie Wonder, etc.) to begin finding a few analogs.

On Feb. 23, Thompson played tunes across that four-decade span, interacting with the crowd throughout with his deadpan, self-deprecating humor. He’s been coming to Bloomington for a long time, and he told the crowd it was one of his favorite towns. What performer wouldn’t enjoy playing the acoustically sublime Buskirk-Chumley to the raucous — but never disrespectful — audience?

Park folk, part Celtic, part rock and roll, part, well, Zappa, Thompson was a powerful presence on stage, swinging effortlessly from silly show tune, to aching ballad, to rocking protest song. Veteran Thompson aficionados were overheard after the performance saying it was his best solo show they’d ever seen. It may true; Thompson gets better as he gets older, more cunning and more heartfelt.

He promised he’d be back in June — with his band.

Warm-up performer Eliza Gilkyson was a confluent counterpart. She too displayed a wide variety of styles and emotions, and, like Thompson, was a delight to listen to between songs. When she was done, we were thoroughly warmed to the intimacy of the setting, prepared for the phenomenon of Richard Thompson.


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Jim Poyser

Jim Poyser

Jim Poyser is Executive Director of Earth Charter Indiana, a statewide organization that was one of over two dozen nonprofit partners in Greening the Statehouse. A former managing editor of NUVO, he won HEC’s Environmentalist of the Year Award in 2013.

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