Richard Thompson, Denver Botanic Gardens, June 24th, 2002.
We were going to be in Denver for a week, my associate and I. We were going for a business conference, but we were arriving a day early -- at 4:30 p.m.. Even if we didn't get checked in to the hotel till 6:00 p.m., that should leave us lots of time (we thought) ! So we ordered two tickets via the Internet, two tickets to see Richard Thompson.
Then things got interesting. First the flight was announced to be faster than expected due to prevailing winds, then it was delayed to load some last minute luggage. When we arrived in Denver Airport we had trouble locating our shuttle to the hotel. When we did find it, our driver wasn't interested in leaving without full capacity. Finally loaded, he drove into Denver...and our hotel was the last stop on his list. We ran up to the counter, checked in, changed our clothes, grabbed a cab and arrived at the Denver Botanic Gardens at 6:58pm! Whew!
Bart, my business associate, was hungry -- so we visited the concession booth to buy a sandwich and a bottle of water. It is HOT in Denver: 97 degrees Fahrenheit, with a UV index of 10! Don't get dehydrated! We missed getting a good seat because we were buying a roast beef sandwich. As we walked up the ramp, there before us stood the man himself -- Richard Thompson -- resplendent in black: black suit, black shirt and black beret, the Lowden slung over his shoulder. I bowed in a "we're not worthy" pose, and then showed him my "Doom & Gloom from the Net" t-shirt which identifies me as a member of the Richard Thompson on-line discussion group.
"That'll get you nowhere here," he smirked. That's right, Richard Thompson put me down!
"I'll order the new shirt!" I promised, alluding to the t-shirt offered on his brand new web-site.
We walked along side by side toward the stage.
"I came 3000 miles to see this show!" I exaggerated.
"That's impossible," he reasoned, "unless you live on an island in the middle of the ocean."
"Well, maybe not 3000 miles," I retorted, "but three and a half hours by plane. Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, you played there once."
"Oh yeah. Hamilton Place," he recalled, and then we parted, me to my perch along the walkway, and he to the stage.
"Ladies and gentlemen -- Denver Botanic Gardens is pleased to present --
He began with a new song, "Gethsemane". Contemporary images mixed with the Biblical reference...the garden of Christ's last prayer -- accompanied by the powerful rhythmic thrust and melodic interplay of Thompson's extraordinary guitar technique. There is truly no one like him. He gave us the favorites; "Withered and Died", "The Ghost of You Walks", and others. He played as yet unrecorded songs which have been in his repertoire for awhile like "My Daddy Is A Mummy" (a faux Egyptian piece composed for a school project --lucky kids!) He gave us a trimmed down version of his 1000 Years of Music Show, and left us all agape when he did his Britney
Spears take on "Ooops I Did It Again"!
These days Richard Thompson adds humor to the doom and gloom. He compared the Gardens' format (a square stage in the middle of a natural bowl) to playing in an "Irish boxing ring -- without the blood!" His tribute to Madonna's wedding brought guffaws all around. I overheard two matronly long-time Gardens' members talking, "Well, I've never heard of him, but he certainly is funny!" And my friend Bart couldn't keep from expressing absolute awe at the way Thompson played the guitar. "He sounds like a whole band!" he declared, "You'd swear there was a bass player with him." But
Danny Thompson was nowhere to be seen...this was Richard Thompson solo.
After a healthy selection of material drawn from his lengthy career -- from Fairport's "Sir Patrick Spens" ("The poor bastards in that band have been playing that song for 35 years -- me--I'm playing it for fun!") to the new songs Thompson played two encores. He concluded with "52 Vincent Black Lightning" (thanking Del McCoury for keeping it on the charts for nine months) and a brilliant solo rendition of "I Misunderstood."
Surrounded by the lush greenery and wonderful fragrances of the Botanic Gardens, cooled by the fresh evening air and refreshed by two hours of superb musicianship, we two visitors wondered how we would get back to the hotel. Many thanks to Kathy, one of the Gardens' volunteers, who called us a taxi and capped a glorious night with a much appreciated gesture of hospitality. The trip to Denver is over, the conference was a success, but the highlight will remain that first night in the presence of greatness.
By the way Mr. Thompson, it's only about 1500 miles, but that's 3000 round trip...and well worth the effort!
[David Kidney ]