I have spent the last two evenings at the South Bank enjoying a couple of concerts that were part of this year's Meltdown Festival, which was overseen by Richard Thompson. On Friday night it was Van Dyke Parks, supported by Clare & The Reasons. Yesterday it was a double header of Loudon Wainwright III and Richard Thompson himself.
The Van Dyke Parks gig was enjoyable enough, although I doubt it will live long in the memory to be honest. Still, it was good to see the great man in action, holding court from his piano stool, and it was considerably more entertaining than England vs Algeria would have been. Clare & The Reasons were OK as well. Here is one from each of them.
"Opportunity For Two" - Van Dyke Parks (from "Jump", 1984)
"Wake Up (You Sleepy Head)" - Clare & The Reasons (from "Arrow", 2009)
Saturday night's show, by contrast, was fantastic from start to finish. We got a 75 minute set from each of them followed by a joint encore.
Loudon Wainwright was up first. I have never seen him live before and, on this performance, I greatly regret not doing so. I will definitely be making up for that when he is over in London in the future. Most of the set was drawn from his more recent albums, with a few new songs that haven't made it to albums yet and a smattering of old favourites for the likes of me who have rather lost touch with him over the years.
For me the stand-out moment of the set was when he swapped his guitar for a piano and treated us to "Red Guitar" followed by "Another Song In C", which completely blew me (and the rest of the audience) away. As far as I can tell "Another Song In C" has never been officially released, but I have managed to track down a bootleg recording for you, so you can recreate the magic of the moment in the comfort of your own home.
"Red Guitar" - Loudon Wainwright III (from "Album III", 1972)
"Another Song In C" - Loudon Wainwright III (live, Westhampton Beach, 2009)
I have seen Richard Thompson many times over the last 30 years, starting with the infamous "Shoot Out The Lights" Tour when him and Linda were scrapping on stage. He is never less than good, but for me he is at his absolute best when it is just him and his acoustic guitar, as it was last night. I was more familiar with most of his set than Loudon's, although he did preview a couple of numbers from his new album due out later in the year. "Beeswing" and "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" were highlights - as they always are - and so was this one, which I don't recall having heard him play live before.
"King Of Bohemia" - Richard Thompson (from "Mirror Blue", 1994)
For the encore we got a nice mini-set from the two lads comprising Richard's "Down Where The Drunkards Roll", "You Ain't Going Nowhere", "Smokey Joe's Cafe" and an old Marty Robbins number. This one, in fact.
"At The End Of a Long Lonely Day" - Marty Robbins (1953)
They did a great version. But when Loudon said "here's an old Marty Robbins number", I have to admit I was hoping it was this one: