POP MUSIC

Monday, June 25, 2007

Richard Thompson Band

Billed as "an evening with the Richard Thompson Band," the British folk legend's Friday gig at the 9:30 club should have been dubbed "Night of a Thousand Solos."

The 58-year-old singer unspooled a set of wonderful tunes both new and old but spoiled many of them with sprawling arrangements. There were guitar solos. And sax solos. And drum solos. And flute solos. The audience applauded each and every one, but in the end, Washington hadn't seen this much overrated noodling since people started waiting in line for a table at Pasta Mia in Adams Morgan.

It wasn't all bad. Thompson's spindly guitar licks added some bristle to the somber new tune "Sunset Song" as well as his recent antiwar opus, "Dad's Gonna Kill Me." (The title is a play on the word Baghdad, and its lyrics pack more wallop than anything on the protest disc Neil Young released last year.)

On the sorrier side of the solo spectrum: "I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight," the jaunty gem he recorded with then-wife Linda Thompson in 1974. The opening verse was fabulous, but longtime Thompson collaborator Peter Zorn mucked things up with a wonky saxophone solo worthy of Arsenio Hall's opening credits.

The concert's brightest spot came about halfway through the set, when Thompson's band mates let him tackle a couple of songs on his own. "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" was a revelation, with finger-picked acoustic guitar resounding throughout the room, while the sparse ballad "Withered and Died" showcased the enduring strength of his voice. It was one solo turn that didn't last long enough.

-- Chris Richards

Rush

There were no cries of "Free Bird!" at Rush's Nissan Pavilion show Saturday. Instead, one heard: "I want some chicken!" Sharing the stage with the Canadian trio weren't extra band members to help re-create their famously intricate rock sound, but three industrial-size rotisseries, full of birds that an attendant in a chef's hat occasionally came out to baste during the sensational three-hour show.

Other whimsical touches ("South Park" clips and a monkey montage -- the latter to accompany "The Main Monkey Business," off Rush's new album, "Snakes & Arrows") added to the oddness, but none of it detracted from the music.

Frontman Geddy Lee on bass and keyboards, guitarist Alex Lifeson and drummer Neil Peart, together since 1974, showed no signs of sonic aging as they tore through a set list made for the serious fan.

Each member proved once again to be a master of his instrument (along with the pedals they used to add layers) as they mingled fresh material with deep cuts, only sporadically pulling out gargantuan hits like "Tom Sawyer."


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