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Thompson Family, Kings Place, London — review
From the Financial Times of Sun, 21 Dec 2014 21:12:39 GMT
Richard Thompson on stage at Kings Place©Martin Harris/Capital Pictures

Richard Thompson on stage at Kings Place

Family Christmases can often be tense. Many people probably have to spend them with their father, their nephew, their half-brother, their sister, her relatively new husband, his brother and that brother’s wife. But now imagine that you all have competing musical careers, some on steeper trajectories than others. That you have all made a family album of songs about each other, albeit recorded at a distance. Now imagine performing the songs together on stage. With your mother — your father’s ex-wife — in the audience.

You now have a sense of what a brave man Teddy Thompson is.

He opened in emollient style with “Family”. “My father is one of the greats/to ever step on the stage,” he sang. His father Richard, his back to the audience, gave a barely perceptible shrug. His younger sister, Teddy added, was “prettier still/and can sing”. Kami gave him the younger sibling’s affectless stare. And then it was a rollercoaster run of musical therapy, folk ballads and guitar histrionics.

The family weakness for country reared its head from time to time, at its best on Kami and her husband James Walbourne’s “I Long For Lonely”, a high-lonesome tale of marital claustrophobia. Teddy summoned the spirit of family friends the McGarrigles with a couple of false starts and dropped lyrics on “Night”, before delivering its passive-aggressive kiss-off against a needle-prick guitar pattern faultlessly on the third pass.

Closest in style to Richard was his grandson Zak, a shyly cool instrumentalist on guitars and mandolin (as he is for his aunt’s band The Rails), but who stepped up to the microphone for “Bad As Me”, in which he twisted clichés into surreal threats with impassive clarity.

In the second half Walbourne traded electrifying licks with his father-in-law on “Panic Attack Blues”, earning a smile of approval from the patriarch. Then it was straight into another guitar workout, Richard’s own “Tear-Stained Letter”, with the audience shouting the chorus. Walbourne’s brother Rob gulped air like a junior Keith Moon and hammered out machinegun drum riffs. “That’s Enough” widened out into societal misery. At the end, in place of the Christmas pudding, came a harsh “Wall Of Death”, Richard insisting that imminent extinction felt “the closest to being alive”. No one would ask how many Thompsons it takes to change a lightbulb; clearly, they much prefer the darkness. But on this evidence, their Christmas should be merry and bright.

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