Richard Thompson, Lyric Hammersmith, London

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The Independent Culture

Thompson is riding high on glowing reviews for Front Parlour Ballads, his first completely solo album in two decades. Like his previous band album, 2003's The Old Kit Bag, there is a deliberate archaism to the title that runs into the voices of the songs as well. Thompson's last major live outing was with the Thousand Years of Pop Music show, and that broad perspective sweeps through his songbook as well. There's rafter-ringing rock'n'roll with a uniquely authentic English twist on the classic "1952 Vincent Black Lightning", performed here in a magnificent solo version, alongside the sinister build-up and carefully crafted storytelling of "When We Were Boys at School"

"Is it going to rain, Richard?" someone shouts out after the second number. "Inside or outside?" Thompson replies. "My forecast is unsettled weather, showers, sleet, sunny spells... hurricanes..." And over a 22-song set, Thompson takes us through all kinds of emotional weather - from the intensity of "Bathsheba Smiles" via the social comedy of "Let it Blow" to his "Fundamentalist theme song" "Inside of the Outside", a Taliban's-eye view of Western decadence that like many of his songs puts you at the heart of an inner extremism.

Elsewhere, the stark emotional entreaties of "For Whose Sake" take us back into more familiar, twisted emotional territory, and the tender "Old Thames Side"is one of the evening's highlights, alongside a haunting version of "Ghosts in the Wind".

There are no old Fairport songs performed, though he delves into his 1970s songbook for the sly "Hokey Pokey", and when his daughter, Kamila, joins him for the encore he allows a rare, thrilling outing for one of the great Richard and Linda ballads, "A Heart Needs a Home". The fairground stomper, "Wall of Death", ends the show. As forecast, expect changeable weather. Expect hurricanes.

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