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
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
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
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"
"There is Beauty" from "The Mikado"
"Night and Day"
"Orange Colored Sky"
"Please Don't Play A-11"
"See My Friends"
"Friday On My Mind"
"Oops! I Did It Again"
"Money, Money, Money"
"It Won't Be Long"
"Cry Me A River"