My Most Memorable RT Experience
"From his early days (...) to his solo years, Thompson has done it all and done it spectacularly. His brooding, catchy compositions have earned him a reputation as a songwriter rivaled only by Bob Dylan and a few others. He is also venerated for his unorthodox, innovative electric guitar playing. Considering that he is of the generation in England that produced such guitar heroes as Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton, it is almost miraculous that Thompson succeeded in creating a cliche-free rocking style that is not blues based. Instead, his playing reflects the influence of American electric country guitarists, English traditional music and his own entirely original vision."
-Guitar World Acoustic 2001
Rumor and Sigh(1991)
This story doesn't really have a point. It is simply my most memorable Richard Thompson experience. Some names and dates have been slightly changed for no good reason
There was a dinner theater called "Abracadabra" on Atlantic Avenue in Raleigh. It was set back in the corner of a small shopping center and had a marquee above the entrance to announce the current play. The theater was apparently not very successful and it closed quickly. I drove by it every business day for over a year and much of this time it was closed.
In the early fall of 1990, I was driving down Atlantic Avenue and was actually listening to RT on cassette. For what must have been the hundredth time, I glanced over at the closed dinner theater. There, on the marquee in big black letters, was posted "RICHARD THOMPSON OCTOBER 16".
I nearly drove off the road. I thought that I was seeing things. Remember, this was long before the wide availability of the Internet and the only way you found out about tour appearances was through magazines and newspapers.
When I got home, I searched for some mention of this appearance in all the newspapers and the few music-industry magazines I had in the house. I found nothing. I stopped at the shopping center the next day to see if information was posted in the windows, but there was nothing.
Driving to Crabtree Valley Mall, I went to the Ticketron kiosk to see if they were carrying tickets. (Ticketron's last gasp was these mall kiosks. They were bought out in 1991 by TicketMaster.) My conversation with the person at the Ticketron kiosk went something like this:
"Do you have tickets for the Richard Thompson concert on October 16?"
"Who's Richard Thompson"
"A folk-rock musician. He was a founding member of Fairport Convention."
"Look, I saw a sign that said he would be appearing on October 16 in Raleigh and I'm trying to find tickets."
"The old Abracadabra Dinner Theater on Atlantic Avenue."
"That old theater near the UPS center."
"I know! I just saw a sign that said 'Richard Thompson October 16' and I'm looking for tickets."
"That's not going to have a venue code."
"Could you just please look for any performance by Richard Thompson?"
"OK...that was 'Richard Thompson,' not "Richard Thompson Band'?"
At this point she looked for "Richard Thompson", "Thompson, Richard", and "Richard Thompson Band" without success for about 15 minutes. She then called another Ticketron office and, after much debate, came up with an event code from a loose-leaf binder. Finally, she printed two tickets. As I recall, the venue on the tickets was, in fact, "Abracadabra Theater."
RT, hurdy-gurdy, and a Vincent Black Lightning
On the evening of the concert, my wife and I arrived a little early and there was already a decent crowd waiting. I have no idea how they found about the performance. This will remain a great mystery to me.
The atmosphere was extremely casual as we went in the theater. There were perhaps two dozen chairs on the carpeted floor. A small raised dais held RT's equipment and a single mic stand. We couldn't have been 20 feet from the dais. Of course, everybody was about 20 feet from the dais and we were all standing or sitting on the floor. At least the carpet seemed to be clean.
I didn't see any drinks or refreshments for sale, so I asked one of the staff/ushers/ticket-takers and she suggested that I go up the street to the nearby convenience store. I did exactly that. There was a long stream of people, like a line of ants, going back and forth through the parking lot between the theater and the Grocery Boy Jr. The clerk at the Grocery Boy Jr. was probably bewildered by the sudden appearance of hundreds of customers. Like most of the others, I bought a couple cold six-packs and headed back to the theater. They didn't even check for a ticket stub when I went back inside. I guess that RT fans tend to be honest.
A poster from the same tour, but in a different city.
The performance was exactly what RT does best. It was close and personal and simply outstanding. The audience was actually involved in a big informal party, since we were milling around with no place to sit. Best of all, that was the first time that I heard "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," from his newest album, Rumour and Sigh, which was to be released in late May of 1991. The audience was stunned by the song and reacted with appropriate enthusiasm.
So, it was over much too soon and we all headed to our homes. Coincidentally, this was just a few days before my birthday, so I got an early present. (My wife kept threatening to just walk up to RT and ask him to sing, "Happy Birthday.") As I said...no point to this story. It's just memorable and (maybe) a little humorous.
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