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Richard Thompson Upholds Guitar Hero Image

Richard Thompson had a nifty rejoinder when he began to be flooded with requests during his late show Friday at the Roxy: “We did all the great ones in the first show,” he told the adoring audience. “The record company came to the first show, you see. . . .” Ah, that Richard, what a kidder.

So only three of the dozen-plus songs in the late set were repeats from his earlier show. This insistence on variety was a sign that the audience was in for truly emotional singing and playing instead of rote rock. And he lied: the numbers relegated to the second set were all equally “great ones.”

This veteran English maverick stands as a true guitar hero and a usually magnificent lyricist when one or the other would be enough. That being the case, fans might be hard-pressed to pick which section of a recent song like “Can’t Win” was more a highlight--the bitter verses he so nonchalantly spat out in that thick accent (backed by the prettier wail of Christine Collister), or the appropriately wrenching fretwork (set so tastefully against accordion and organ).

Thompson’s playing works through cathartic emotional crescendos, and--like alcohol--is likely to enhance the pre-existing mood of the listener. At home, contemplating the lyrics, that could be melancholia; in concert, it couldn’t be anything but bliss.

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