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Australasian Tour 2001.

Welcome, these pages are intended to document the second AUSTRALASIAN TOUR by singer songwriter Richard Thompson.

Once the tour is over I will post reviews and setlists of the tour dates in Australia , New Zealand and Japan of which I have managed to find any information, such as newspaper reviews , radio interviews, broadcasts, adverts and eyewitness accounts. 
I would welcome input from anyone who can provide information about the tour .

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Thursday 15th February 2001

The Octagon Theatre, Perth

     Thursday night at the Octagon was a milestone in My Life As An RT-Farty. After almost ten years, my first opportunity to see the man himself. I almost didn't make it -- I was expecting to be called in for work on the night, and only knew for sure that I would be free late the night before. I felt almost nervous, like someone meeting a pen-pal for the first time, after a lengthy correspondence. Although I haven't seen RT before, I know his catalogue so well, both live and recorded, and have read and heard so much of performances past and present, that the evening had few purely musical surprises for me. As a result, this report will concentrate on what I was most sensitive to -- the feel of the show, the look of the man, trivial maybe, but the real essence of live performance, surely, the stuff that you can't get down on tape.

    The venue was the Octagon Theatre, a performance space/lecture hall in the leafy grounds of the University of Western Australia, a Spanish-style limestone campus on the banks of the Swan River. I have worked and played at the University for much of my life, and met Nicki there, so it was a memory-laden venue for such a significant event. As we approached the Theatre, beneath gum-trees in the humid twilight, a couple of young Chinese students were practising a dragon-dance on the lawn. The Octagon seats about 800 people, with steeply raked seats in a half-octagon shape around a wooden apron stage. RT was placed at the back of the apron, so even though we were in the front row we weren't exactly close. The place was probably a bit more than three-quarters full -- the usual folky crowd, with a moderate infusion of young blood. (Those who know tell me that Hank Marvin, now resident in the Perth Hills, was in the audience.)

2001 Tour dates

New Zealand

3 February Auckland

Bruce Mason Theatre



5 February Sydney

Enmore Theatre


8 February Melbourne

Concert Hall


10 February Canberra



13 February Brisbane

Tivoli Theatre


15 February Perth

Octagon Theatre


17 February Adelaide



18 February Adelaide


        The opening act: Bernard Carney, local folk-club stalwart and Bard of Rottnest Island -- he has a pleasant enough line in ragtime guitar and comic numbers, but was not exactly a challenging or exciting choice. THE MAN: Half-way through the first interval, the new-agey background music gave way abruptly to -- Bobby Gentry (? that song about dark deeds on the Tallahatchie? Bridge), Procul Harum (Whiter Shade of Pale, the first song Nicki's parent's ever danced to), then a modern sounding female singer I didn't recognise, finishing just as the lights faded and RT bounded on ... - --- He was a little shorter than I'd imagined (isn't everyone?), with rather stumpy legs and a slightly knock-kneed stance while playing. The outfit? Black. (Surprise, surprise.) The classic 'Freedom for Tooting' look. Nicki claimed to find the sight of nipples prominent beneath a soft black t-shirt 'disturbing', but would not elucidate further. Beret pulled back tightly, forming three symmetrical 'horns'. A big grin, and a manner that seemed equally compounded of nervous energy and diffidence. You can't tell me that RT doesn't have some Asian blood in him somewhere. I've noticed this before, in photos, but it was still more striking in the flesh. Even some of his mannerisms - -- we've had a Japanese guest staying with us for several weeks, and RT's crinkly, slightly embarrassed smile, accompanied by a bob of the head and narrowed eyes, was instantly recognisable.

    I came discreetly armed with pen and paper, but it was too dark to take notes. I could recreate the setlist from memory, if anyone asks. It seemed essentially identical to the recently reported ones, even down to the 'requests'. ('Beeswing' and 'Dimming'.) No 'Mr Rebound', though. 'Bathsheba' to start, followed by a manic 'Crawl Back' -- the vocal coda was positively frenzied. A slight hitch at the start, when he paused in the first chorus for audience participation and got blank silence, causing him to lose his place. It was a bit much to expect from the audience, really, not having warned them, and only the second song of the night. I wondered if this was his way of seeing how many people out there had bought his latest CD. They got the idea quickly, though, and joined in enthusiastically enough for the rest of the song. I've said that the evening had few purely musical surprises -- the biggest one for me was just how LOUD it was. A bit too loud for the intimate acoustic, really. I'm not sure if it was the mix, or just RT's ferocious musical attack, both vocally and instrumentally, even on some of the quieter songs. It tended to flatten out the sound. Personally, I would have liked a little more deliberation, on occasion. The unremitting intensity seemed, at times, almost defensive, as if it was keeping the audience at a certain distance. Having said that, the next song, 'Cold Kisses', was dark and moody and controlled. It was Nicki's favourite performance of the night, and it received an equally positive response from the forthcoming Paterson (now _in utero_, known to us, for complex reasons, as 'Angelfish Junior', or 'AFJ'). I'm told AFJ's other favourite, suitably enough, I suppose, was 'My Daddy is A Mummy'. This concert was undoubtedly the most intense auditory experience he (we _think_ it's a he) has had -- it will probably scar him (?) for his (?) life to come, one way or the other ...

I won't list all the other songs -- it was a good two hour show, without a break, except for string replacements and chit-chat. Highlights? The powerful and harrowing 'Shoot Out The Lights', certainly. (Oddly relieved, in one of the instrumentals, but a funny little folk twiddle, like a tiny jig.) 'Uninhabited Man' definitely answers my question about which of the 'Mock Turtle' songs have gained most stature in perofrmance, although I still wouldn't place it quite in the absolute top rank of 'classic' RT songs. Great to hear solid versions of 'Turning of the Tide' and 'When the Spell is Broken'. 'Dry My Tears' seemed a bit skimpy without a band. 'Sights and Sounds' sounded fabulous, but lyrically I find it a bit like watching old re-runs of 'The Bill'. 'Walking the Long Miles Home' was a pleasure. The guitar work. What can I say? I have to admit something: I think that RT is the most overrated underrated guitarist in the business. Of course he's brilliant, extraordinary, amazing: but I can see why his playing hasn't made him many friends in the 'real' world. It's easier to praise than to really like. I don't mean that negatively, it's just that his current style of playing doesn't really seem to WANT to be liked, on the one hand, while not wanting unduly to impress on the other. It's as if the guitar speaks a language of its own, knotty and austere, unconcerned by whoever is listening, but of intense personal meaning -- to judge by the scowls and grimaces that accompany it. I loved the guitar work, personally, for all its Celtic knottiness: the way that traditional motifs have become a natural part of its idiom, even in songs that make no pretence to 'folkiness'; its determination to explore complex landscapes rather than make pretty pictures; its almost Puritan unwillingness to over-indulge for the sake of sheer sensual gratification (ooh-er!). I wish that this style was more evident in his recordings. (I can see, for commercial reasons, why it isn't.) I can't help feeling a little sad, though, that it seems to have become an instrument for scratching certain complex and difficult itches -- pain, anger, fear, frustration -- at the expense of certain others -- hinted at in the coda to 'Valerio'

    The jokes? We were informed that the original Perth, in Scotland, is an unbelievably boring place, to be avoided at all costs, accompanied by the old joke about Eskimo words for 'snow'. When taking out his large and shiny box of strings he commented that it reminded him of 'a box of elephant prophylactics' ( a fair comment) -- 'but then lots of things remind me of prophylactics'. (Hmm ... ) While replacing the string he told, at great length, the old one about the cast away and Ursula Andress -- only to find, at the end, that he had fitted the wrong string. This led into the audience singalong of 'Twist and Shout'. The best impromptu of the night (I assume it was an impromptu) came towards the start, when someone at the back of the hall loudly yelled '68!' RT made a comic pretence of bewilderment, treating it as a song request, and started to suggest songs with numbers in them, finishing up with '76 Trombones' and 'Neun und Neunzig Luft-Ballons'. Towards the end he was invited back to the house of a lady audience-member -- 'I know where you live -- 14 Acacia Avenue, isn't it? -- I'll come if I can bring along the lads too -- and some of my old army chums -- Ginger and Curly and Spud ... ' You had to be there, I guess ..

    The audience filed up the stairs to the 'Avengers' theme. (RT really should have been wearing his 'Mock Tudor' bowler and suit, a la John Steed, the professional Englishman so beloved of foreigners.) We couldn't hang around, for family reasons. Today the local paper ran a very respectful review, all the usual stuff, with a serious looking photo. Reference was made to two songs: 'Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed?' (I think I can figure that one out) and 'Wild Women With Hearts of Dust' (say WHAT?).




Perth, Western Australia

No known recording exists of this show

2001 Australian tour reviews/interviews and photographs

Richard Thompson photo gallery.


The Richard Thompson pages .


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