British guitarist transcends musical genres

After more than three decades of recording and touring, singer/songwriter Richard Thompson has built a loyal fan base. That was apparent at Saturday's Liberty Hall concert.

During the opening number, the British legend occasionally stepped away from the microphone while the audience picked up right where he left off, often finishing verses and choruses for him.

Thompson and his band also performed in January at the venue, and they told the crowd it was good to be back. Despite these words, he maintained the air of a seasoned pro for much of the show: polite, mostly quiet and all business. Yet as the two-hour-plus concert neared its halfway point, things seemed to change, and Thompson loosened up, speaking and joking more with the audience.

The guitarist is touring in support of his new album "The Old Kit Bag," released last week. But outside of his regular work, he also is known for "1,000 Years of Popular Music," a show that guides listeners, as he put it, "From 1000 A.D. right up to Britney (Spears) and beyond -- assuming there is anything beyond Britney."

Saturday night he treated the crowd to an excerpt from "1,000 Years," a classical, 15th-century song in Italian that loosely translates to "I Know a Lucky Fellow."

It was part of a midset solo acoustic bit, which ended up being the most refreshing part of the night. It offered his band a chance to rest, but more importantly it gave Thompson an opportunity to really showcase his voice and guitar skills -- not that anyone was questioning either.

During his set and two encores, Thompson transcended genres the way only a great musician can. Whether it was the 1940s jazz-tinged "Al Bowlly's In Heaven," the countrified stomper "Two Left Feet" or the Celtic-flavored "1952 Vincent Black Lightning," it would seem the man and his band can do anything. And, after nearly 35 years of practice, that's not terribly surprising.

-- Aaron Passman is a journalism student at Kansas University.


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