Richard Thompson | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Richard Thompson 


Upon arriving at Capitol in the late 80s Richard Thompson was positioned for stardom in America. Through Amnesia, Rumor and Sigh, and Mirror Blue, all produced by Mitchell Froom, the label spent more and more money to promote Thompson here, but the scheme never flew, and with the sprawl of the recent You? Me? Us? the campaign has effectively ended; Thompson will remain the quintessential cult figure. Spreading 19 tunes over two CDs is no way to win over American audiences. Held against his classic material with Linda Thompson in the 70s and early 80s, much of his subsequent work pales (and the recent Linda Thompson retrospective Dreams Fly Away on Hannibal only reinforces the charged brilliance of their work together). But as is the case with a handful of artists who've moved beyond their pioneering work to become dependable artisans--Sonic Youth and Neil Young among them--he continues to maneuver at an emotional depth most musicians never reach. Between You? Me? Us?'s electric disc ("Voltage Enhanced") and acoustic disc ("Nude"), Thompson continues to essay the pain, hatred, and occasional happiness of modern romance--especially the hatred. Nobody, not even Elvis Costello, does the hatred like Thompson. He describes one relationship as a "Razor Dance"; elsewhere he paints empathetic portraits of near-suicidal unhappiness--"She might wipe her tears on a rusty nail." His terrific performances may not offer much in the way of surprises, but his tunes are still affecting, with wit, verve, and some of the most expressive and technically dazzling guitar playing you'll ever hear. Thursday, September 5, 8 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 472-0449 or 559-1212.


Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Photo of Richard Thompson by Michael Wilson.

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