“Loud & Rich” is the official tour title of Richard Thompson and Loudon Wainwright III’s current joint excursion, and it’s clear that they mean it as a joke. But tickets were $40 at the door and $45 in advance, which is not exactly going to bring in the kids. I’ll admit this a personal issue for me. I wrote a book about Richard Thompson that came out last June (it’s called Shoot Out The Lights, number 58 in the 33 1/3 series of short books about single albums). When I first approached Thompson’s management looking for interviews, I mentioned that some of Thompson’s contemporaries from the Brit-folk scene of the late-60s have been engaging a younger audience, and I hoped that this book could do the same for Thompson. His management informed me that Thompson had no interest in any such project. From the price of tickets to the prevalent gray in the UT Ballroom crowd on Saturday night, it appears that Thompson still has no interest in engaging younger listeners.
Which is a damn shame, because he appeared to be having more fun at Saturday’s show than any time I’ve seen him in the last decade. His guitar skills remain unsurpassed, and his ability to wreak pleasing discordance out of his leads is more akin to the fans of Bartok and avant-jazz that you find among indie rock guitar gods rather than among his blues-besotted Boomer contemporaries. His utter commitment to his songs, no matter how dark and twisted they become, is a generation-spanning gift. But okay, I get it, he doesn’t care that his audience continues to age with him.