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LIVE: Richard Thompson / Memorial – Queens Hall, Edinburgh, 18/06/2023

It’s been an unbearably hot week or so by Scottish standards. It’s a sold out gig, at a venue Richard Thompson has played many times before, so not only is there anticipation, but it’s close and sweaty before a note is played. First up are Memorial. The duo of Jack Watts and Oliver Spalding seem overawed to be here, but they don’t let that get in the way of a strong, short set. They start with ‘Broken Record‘ from last year’s self-titled debut, and win the crowd over very quickly. When they introduce ‘Amy‘ as being about someone who wasn’t very nice, they apologise in case there are any nice Amys in the audience. Bless. They have haunting tunes and gorgeous harmonies, and I’m very happy to buy their album from the merch stand in the interval.

Over twenty years of living in the Scottish central belt, and going to gigs in Glasgow and Edinburgh has shown that the stereotype of Glasgow audiences being more up for it as opposed to Edinburgh’s more restrained crowds is not without foundation. So it’s a bit of a surprise when Richard Thompson comes on just with his acoustic guitar and the audience are perhaps rather more prone to shouting things at him inbetween songs than might reasonably be expected. ‘I thought I was in Glasgow for a minute.’ he deadpans. But he has his own great banter and we get a twenty song set drawing from across his fifty year plus catalogue.

See, it’s not just the playing, but the humour and the moods that he can pull off, even when it’s just him and an acoustic guitar. He opens with ‘I Misunderstood‘ a song with the agonising couplet that ‘I thought you were saying good luck, you were saying goodbye.’ There’s the completely contrasting song ‘My Daddy Is A Mummy‘ written to explain Ancient Egypt to children. He can make an audience experience pain and heartbreak, but also make them laugh.

His song-writing craft cannot be undersold. ‘1952 Vincent Black Lightning‘ which is genuinely spinechilling was his (very successful) attempt to write a British road song, and one that he actually researched. No matter how many times you hear this, it is little short of sorcery. Yet he also draws on his own experiences of life – ‘Genesis Hall,’ the only Fairport Convention song tonight, tells the story of a homeless hostel that got closed down in the late ’60s, or there’s the wonderful ‘Walking The Long Miles Home‘ about his experiences of going to the Marquee club in the 60s. He also brings out his wife Zara Phillips, who adds harmony vocals to a number of songs, including new song ‘Trust‘ plus classic songs recorded with his first wife, Linda ‘Wall Of Death‘ and ‘I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight.’

We walk out, on a high from glorious music – and to top it all off, it’s absolutely pouring with rain. A cherry on the top of a wonderful evening.

God is in the TV is an online music and culture fanzine founded in Cardiff by the editor Bill Cummings in 2003. GIITTV Bill has developed the site with the aid of a team of sub-editors and writers from across Britain, covering a wide range of music from unsigned and independent artists to major releases.