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This review is from: Live At Celtic Connections [Blu-ray]  (Blu-ray)
Anyone who has seen Richard Thompson live in recent years will know what to expect from this concert recording, from January 2011. Drawing on the same band that recorded the Dream Attic album, and leaning very heavily on that album for material, it showcases Thompson the singer-songwriter while providing plenty to admire for fans of Thompson the electric guitarist.
To get the technical stuff out of the way first, both the sound and HD picture quality are very good indeed. Indeed, the DTS HD Master Audio on its own should give many prospective purchasers a reason to pick this up, and audience noise is kept unobtrusive. Given that the budget for this sort of video is always going to be somewhat restricted, it's also nice to be able to report that camera coverage is very good, with enough close-ups to give a very intimate sense of events on the stage, although the direction & editing are unremarkable. The running time (close to two and a half hours) is decent.
(Note that the two bonus tracks only seem to come with a stereo audio track. These are two songs from the Cambridge Folk Festival with Thompson solo with acoustic guitar. Despite the slight drop in encoding quality, they make for a very nice bonus.)
In terms of performance, Thompson is never going to be far from impeccable, and this line-up is an interesting one for the band. Those used to seeing Danny Thompson on acoustic bass will find a lot to admire in Taras Prodaniuk's electric bass. Pete Zorn deftly provides a range of instrumental colour, and Mike Jerome has now occupied the drummer's seat for long enough to have become fully integrated into the band's sound. The most unusual element is "new boy" Joel Zifkin on violin, who performs in a curiously isolated way but definitely adds something extra.
I will note, though, that Thompson himself seems particularly awkward with the audience during the early part of the concert, and some of his stiffness is notable in the musicians as well who (while musically flawless) seem to rein in their personalities somewhat, perhaps too conscious of the video recording.
The choice of material is, for me, the only real weakness. Casual listeners cannot buy this video and expect a good coverage of Thompson's classic material. While perhaps as many as half the songs from Dream Attic are welcome, even good performances cannot rescue the album's weaker moments, and this throws a weight of expectation on the second set. "Can't Win", with its fiery & inventive six-minute guitar solo, definitely kicks things into a higher gear, and the readings of regular workhorses "Al Bowlly's In Heaven" and "Tear-Stained Letter" provide predictable (and welcome) highlights.
It would be a harsh reviewer who subtracted a star from this package: it's the best quality video document currently available of a genuinely great performer. Nevertheless, this is probably more of a comfort purchase for the true believer than a one-off gamble for someone hoping to discover what all the fuss is about.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 3 Feb 2012 11:29:30 GMT
Mr. D. Bain says:
Thanks for a very good and insightful review.
Posted on 15 Nov 2013 19:01:31 GMT
a very good post indeed which i second wholeheartedly except for your comments on Dream Attic which i thought was an excellent album-so only 4 stars for you!
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