This review appeared on the Lincoln Journal Star website after the October 2004 concert.

Thompson brings 1,000 years of music to Rococo

BY L. KENT WOLGAMOTT / Lincoln Journal Star

Opening with the oldest known round, "Sumer is Icumen In" and closing with today's hottest iTunes download, Bowling for Soup's "1985," Richard Thompson presented "1000 Years of Popular Music" in just over two hours Thursday night.

Well, not exactly 1000 years. The round dates to 1259. But what's a couple hundred years here or there when you're talented enough to pull out the true pop genius in "Oops! I Did It Again," the Britney Spears megahit?

Thompson did just that along with his collaborators Judith Owen, who primarily sang and played a bit of piano and drummer Debra Dobkin, who only sang a little.

But she could really play the drums and might have had the hardest job of the trio, moving from hand drumming on the oldest material to swing, country and rock 'n' roll without missing a beat.

It's likely that Thompson's the only musician in the world right now who could or would play such a wide ranging show.

Although I'm guessing Bob Dylan wouldn't have to do much boning up to do a concert spanning the historical range. I can't imagine Dylan not doing some of his own material or doing songs by Britney and Abba.

I'm stealing this thought from my camera-toting colleague Jim Colburn because I think he got it exactly right: Thompson's European roots (he's a Brit) allow him to "slum" by finding the core of disposable hits that American musicians wouldn't lower themselves to play.

When we talked a couple weeks ago, Thompson said he didn't divide the show equally across the centuries because he didn't think the audience could stand getting to, say, 1800 in 90 minutes.

His theory is correct. The trio jumped into the 20th century with the Ink Spots "Java Jive" about 65 minutes into the show, not a moment too late.

I've got no problem with hearing a madrigal or the trio's take on a Gilbert and Sullivan number from "The Mikado." But the more contemporary the music got, the more fun the show became.

In the final 70 minutes, Owen contributed a couple fine torch songs -- "Night and Day" and "Cry Me A River" and the set included a Noel Coward tune and a swinging version of Nat King Cole's "Orange-Colored Sky."

And once he hit the '60s Thompson and company got rolling, covering tunes by the Kinks, the EasyBeat, Squeeze, Prince and, of course, the Beatles with distinctive verve.

Even though he did little showing off and played the entire show on an acoustic guitar, Thompson showed why he's considered one of the world's best guitarists with his rhythms, riffs and flourishes.

No one is perfect and that includes Thompson, who's in no danger of being recruited as a hardcore honky tonk singer. That became clear on a version of Hank Cochran's "Please Don't Play A-11."

But that slight bump in the road didn't detract from the concert. It's easy to see why "1,000 Years of Popular Music" is such a universally acclaimed show. It captivated the audience for two hours, a musical history lesson come vividly to life.

In all, the trio played 27 songs. Most of them, 21 to be exact, were in the set when the tour opened last week in Irvine, Calif.

The other half dozen, including Britney's classic and the Sanford Clark rock' n' roller "The Fool" are numbers that Thompson can pick from to keep the concerts fresh for the musicians and surprising for the audience.

Not surprisingly, The Rococo Theatre proved to be a perfect venue for Thompson and LAFTA deserves thanks for bringing him to town for the first time in his nearly three decade career.

Here's hoping he comes back soon with a show of his own material.

Here's my version of Thursday's set list:

"Sumer is Icumen In"
"King Henry V's Conquest of France"
"So Ben Mi Ca Bon Tempo"
"Edinborough, Sterling, St. Johnstown" (????)
"Oh Sleep From Fancy"
"When I'm Laid in Earth"
"The Banks of the Nile"
"Blackleg Miner"
"Trafalgar Square"
"There is Beauty" from "The Mikado"
"Sally Gardens"
"Java Jive"
"Night and Day"
"London Pride"
"Orange Colored Sky"
"The Fool"
"Please Don't Play A-11"
"See My Friends"
"Friday On My Mind"
"Oops! I Did It Again"
"Sam Hall"
"Money, Money, Money"
"It Won't Be Long"
"Cry Me A River"

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