Richard Thompson | Lobero Theatre | 3/1/2022

Article Contributed by L. Paul Mann | Published on Friday, March 11, 2022

English folk-rock icon Richard Thompson brought seven decades of songwriting genius to an intimate concert at the Lobero Theatre. Many residents already know that the historic theater is the longest continuously operating performance hall in California. But it was also recently confirmed that the theater is also one of the five oldest theaters in the entire country that are still in operation. Combined with the fact that the ornate venue also has the best acoustics in all of Santa Barbara, it is a top destination for performance artists from across the globe.

Richard Thompson | Lobero Theatre

As the live music industry continues to rebound, the non-profit community-supported Lobero has begun booking an extraordinary 2022 calendar. The lineup is already full of a wide-ranging variety of entertainment, including multiple genres of music, theater, comedy, and other performance art.

Jessie Payo | Santa Barbara, CA

Southern California singer-songwriter Jessie Payo opened the show on Match 1st. The singer has had considerable success as a member of several pop groups, including the popular duo Jupiter Rising. Her solo career has been no less successful, with her tunes appearing in several films. The sultry-voiced singer moves freely through several musical genres. Sometimes her voice is reminiscent of a 60s folk singer’s music like Joan Baez. However, her tunes would be right at home in a Nashville venue at other times, reflecting a solid country music influence. The young singer delighted the crowd at the Lobero with her bellowing vocals that echoed perfectly throughout the theater.

Richard Thompson | Lobero Theatre

Richard Thompson took the stage after a short intermission and immediately captivated the audience's attention with his sarcastic, witty storytelling and masterful musicianship. Thompson is sometimes referred to as the Bob Dylan of England. That is a bit of an Apples to Oranges comparison. Thompson continues to offer up a trifecta of creative genius during his concerts, showcasing superb songwriting, exquisite guitar skills, and strong vocal abilities. Dylan, in comparison, is one of the most accomplished songwriters of pop music. Enough said on Dylan! One of the founding members of the early folk-rock group Fairport Convention, Thompson would go on to have a musical career spanning seven decades. His contribution to the 1969 album “Liege and Lief” helped bring British folk music to the forefront of pop music. Thompson went on to record a series of albums with his spouse at the time,  Linda Thompson, that established him as an inimitable guitarist with a unique strumming style. Richard launched a solo career in 1983 with the album  “Hand of Kindness.” The singer-songwriter scored a hit with his song "1952 Vincent Black Lightning” in 1992. A decade later, Thompson returned to an independent label, releasing 2003's  “The Old Kit Bag.” Since then, the prodigious songwriter has released several other albums, culminating with his stunning “13 Rivers” in 2018, extending his studio catalog to no less than 25 albums.

Richard Thompson | Santa Barbara, CA

Thompson had plenty of material to choose from for his Lobero show, and he offered up a historic slice of material from across his decades-long career. The exquisite guitarist opened with “Stony Ground” from his “Electric” album. Initially recorded as a searing electric guitar showcase, the tune came through powerfully on acoustic guitar with Thompson’s unique picking style. The masterful musician followed with a new song written during the Covid lockdown, “If I Could Live My Life Again.” Thompson then reached far back into his catalog to play a Fairport Convention song, “Genesis Hall.”

Richard Thompson | Lobero Theatre

Thompson proved that he was a master storyteller throughout the night, complete with long anecdotes before many of his tunes. As he reminded the audience several times in jest, the current tour is in support of his new biographical book “Beeswing.” While explaining the motivation behind the tune “Turning Of The Tide,” he reminisced about his experience with a lady of the night in Hamburg, Germany, during a Fairport Convention tour in the '60s. Before playing the tune “Walking The Long Miles Home,” Thompson shared a poignant story about the song's inspiration encapsulating a historical period at the Marquee Club. The singer explained how the club would book house bands on a weekly basis with some of the regulars, including The Yardbirds and The Who. As a teenage boy enthralled by the music, he explained how he would have to decide whether to stay for the band's second set and miss the last bus home. More often than not, he would choose to stay and have to walk the 10 miles home in the cold, wet English nighttime.

Richard Thompson & Zara Phillips | Lobero Theatre

The classic tune “1952 Vincent Black Lightning” brought the Lobero crowd to their feet mid-concert. From there, Thompson encouraged the crowd with several sing-along songs, much in the style of Irish pub music. Later in the evening, Thompson brought out singer Zara Phillips to sing a series of duets. Zara is an accomplished singer, songwriter, and author. Her voice lent itself well to the show, including several songs Thompson had produced with his former mate Linda Thompson.

Richard Thompson | Lobero Theatre

After a long-standing ovation, the show ended with a three-song encore featuring the song “Beeswing,” also the title of his new book. After the show, a large crowd milled about the book stand outside the venue, many beaming a huge smile, the first crowd at the Lobero that didn’t have to wear mandatory masks since the lifting of the sanctions.