Review: Richard Thompson at Sidmouth Folk Week

Richard Thompson. Picture: Tom Bejgrowicz

Richard Thompson. Picture: Tom Bejgrowicz - Credit: Tom Bejgrowicz

Last week Lindisfarne threatened to blow the Ham marquee down with a storming show.

Kirsty Merryn at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul Strange

Kirsty Merryn at the Ham Marquee. Picture: Paul Strange - Credit: Archant

Seven days later, the elements were trying even harder, buffeting Sidmouth Folk Festival's main venue with blustery squalls. But for the sell-out crowd, braving the inclement weather was worth it to see Richard Thompson.

A founding member of folk-rock pioneers Fairport Convention in the late 1960s, a key folk performer with his ex-wife Linda during the 1970s, and a solo artist since then, Thompson is a gifted guitarist, lyricist and composer. His work may not be mainstream, but the man's a legend.

Kicking off proceedings, Kirsty Merryn offered a sterling support set. The New Forest-born singer-songwriter and keyboardist performed a selection of her powerful personal songs.

These included The Pit and The Pugilist, about her great, great grandfather Tommy Mitchell, who was a coal miner and boxing champion from Derbyshire. Merryn's pure and soaring voice was a delight throughout her set, although occasionally her piano felt too strident in the mix.

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After a break, Thompson bounced on stage to tumultuous applause. Looking fit at 70 and wearing his familiar Che Guevara beret on his bonce, he confidently tore into a slick solo set, peppered with back catalogue gems.

Accompanying himself on acoustic guitar, highlights abounded. The Ghost Of You Walks shimmered with bluesy chords, Valerie powered in with echoed vocals, while Crocodile Tears - a bitter song about a relationship break-up - piled on the misery.

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Other highpoints included the amusing sea shanty Johnny's Far Away and Thompson's own take on the Sandy Denny/Fairport Convention classic Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

Joined on harmony vocals by his partner, singer-songwriter Zara Phillips, Thompson concluded with a punchy Wall Of Death, a rippling The Rattle Within and the slow and blackly comic ballad From Galway to Graceland.

Having given a dazzling display of guitar fretwork fireworks and performed some terrific songs, Thompson received huge applause and deservedly won an encore.

Due to the weather, Thompson's show was the final event at the Ham this year. It made a fitting end to a great week of concerts in the marquee.


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