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Concert Review by Nick Morgan
TEDDY THOMPSON AND HIS BAND, ULU, London, April 27th 2006
It’s almost a year to the day since we were last in the gymnasium-like, and exceptionally noisy (students must just have so much to chatter about) University of London Union. On that occasion, having witnessed the much inebriated Willie Mason, I was moved to comment at some length on the revival of the singer songwriter. Well music-lovers, the news is that they’re still hot – in fact we’ve got an interesting trio, young and old, at consecutive gigs in mid-May and early June.
But it’s interesting to reflect that amongst the Masons, the Jack Johnsons (does he really write songs deliberately to have them used in commercials?) and the Jamie Ts (Serge – he’s very hot, listen to ‘Salvador’ on his myspace page) there are a few, as we call them in football parlance, ‘special ones’. I mean the sons and daughters of the great and good, notably the hugely-hyped and horribly-affected Rufus Wainwright, his pretty and melodic sister Martha (offspring, if you didn’t know it, of Loudon Wainwright and Kate McGarrigle), and tonight’s pair, the rapidly up-and-coming Teddy Thompson, and his less well known sister Kamila, son and daughter of Richard and Linda Thompson.
And of course, the McGarrigle sisters collaborated with Richard and Linda, Richard produced a few of Loudon’s albums, Teddy has played with both his mum and dad, Richard plays on Teddy’s album, Kamila sings with Teddy, and her dad, and her mum, Martha sings with her Mum, and her brother, and her Dad, and Teddy often tours with her band, and her bassist Brad Albetta co-produced Teddy’s new album (and produced Martha’s), Kamila sings with Rufus and Martha for Teddy, and Teddy and Rufus dueted together for the soundtrack of Brokeback Mountain. Hmmm – all seems a bit incestuous then. But the really sickening thing is, on the basis of what I’ve heard on disc, and tonight’s showing, that these well connected kids (well actually they’re mostly in their thirties) are nauseatingly talented, and have more than enough by way of gifts to make it on their own, which is what, by and large, they seem to be doing.
Kamila kicks off - and we arrive half way through in a half-empty hall. What with the student chat chat chat, and her relatively poor microphone technique, it was hard to pick up the titles of the songs we heard, but they were very spare and very sad. I know she played ‘Cars’, which you can hear on her myspace page. Next up (yes, it’s a big value for money night Serge) are Sol Seppy, or I should say Sophie Michalitsianos and her band. Sophie is a much-acclaimed pianist, cellist and vocalist and sometime collaborator of Sparklehorse, whose recently released album, The Bells of 1 2, has received considerable praise from the British Press.
Tonight’s audience had obviously not read the cuttings (you can find them on the website) and had little patience for this Husky Rescue meets David Lynch meets Portishead ethereal sort of stuff, nicely played though it was. The students at the back just chatted and chatted and chatted and chatted, it was rather rude really, and after about five numbers this interesting outfit left the stage to a crescendo of, errr, chat. Too bad – I thought young people were brought up rather better than this these days. Not to say, of course, that the audience was entirely under twenty five. Far from it. Probably a half or more were well over thirty, and there were enough slapheads and greyhairs to suggest that some at least were here in the hope that they might catch a glimpse of the great RT himself, who slid onto the stage when Teddy last played in London a few months ago (in this, if nothing else, they were to be disappointed).
And I have to say that next to me (I should mention Serge, that I’ve rarely been so close to a stage in my life – partly to get away from the chatterboxes at the back, but also because I’d left the wonderful Whiskyfun camera at home and the Photographer’s stand-in was only going to work up front) were some distinctly over-aged North American ladies (one of whom managed to get her head in all the pictures), who it turned out, seemed to have Teddy on the sort of pedestal that Serge normally reserves for his beloved Brora – now how scary is that?
Now I’ll cut to the point (at last!). Teddy Thompson is the real business.
In fact he’s almost too good. You sort of wonder where that almost throw away accomplishment comes from (yeah yeah – I know – his Mum and Dad). Having had a rocky start with a lost album back in 2000 he sort of went to ground with family and friends, but with the release of an EP Blunderbuss in 2004, and then last year’s Separate Ways, he seems to be back with a very big bang. He’s smart sardonic and self-depreciating (as are many of his songs). And if you didn’t know better you might think he looked like a youthful Steve Winwood (hang on, I thought little Stevie W was always youthful?) and sounded like Lyle Lovett. If there’s any obvious familial influence it’s in the phrasing of some of his chord sequences – made more obvious on the album where Dad plays some outrageously Daddish style guitar. But tonight Steve Schiltz (normally front man for New York band Longwave) has the guitar in hand and he is frankly inspired and highly original, a foil and contrast to Thompson’s mostly downbeat, though sometimes humorous lyrics. Highlights are opener ‘Shine so bright’, ‘Altered state’ and ‘No way to be’, but it’s hard to find a weak number in the set. Kamila helps out on a new country inspired song, ‘Down low’, and appears for the first encore to sing (really beautifully, albeit at the second attempt) the Everly Brothers’ ‘Take a message to Mary’.
Otherwise we get a mixture of old and new material, ‘Things I do’, ‘I should get up’, ‘Turning the gun on myself’, ‘Everybody move it’ and ‘Separate ways’ among them. The band is really tight, Thompson’s voice is strong and apart from the ecstatic mouthings of the ladies to my left, he shuts the audience up at a stroke, and that was a triumph in itself.
So Serge we’re probably in the 90 point zone for this one. See for yourself by buying the album, and if Teddy and his band pass by your way then please go and see him too – he’s a performer worthy of the price of a ticket. - Nick Morgan  (concert photographs by Kate)

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