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click to enlarge Richard Thompson

Richard Thompson

When: Mon., June 16, 6:30 p.m. 2014
On one hand you’ve got Richard Thompson the songwriter, who depicts frustrated love, spilled blood, and rank injustice with lacerating humor and sobering acuity. On the other, there’s Thompson the guitarist, whose intricate, lilting, harmonically agile acoustic picking and stinging electric leads (which sound like a hybrid of James Burton and a bagpiper) have been astonishing audiences since the late 60s, when he played on the first five albums by long-lived folk-rock combo Fairport Convention, stoking its brief flare of brilliance. Fairport’s debut album came out 46 years ago this month, and in the intervening decades Thompson has settled into a sort of reliable craftsmanship as a writer of lyrics—but on his latest album, Electric (New West), his guitar playing still strikes sparks. In concert he bolsters his already absurdly rich songbook with a dizzying range of covers, among them the 13th-century round “Sumer Is Icumen In” and the Cream hit “White Room”; drummer Michael Jerome steals the show on the latter by singing Jack Bruce’s high notes as he re-creates Ginger Baker’s massive, swinging beats. Tonight in Millennium Park, Thompson plays a solo acoustic set followed by one with the trio. On Saturday at SPACE, Thompson and his trio—Jerome and bassist Taras Prodaniuk—play a sold-out show. —Bill Meyer

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