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POP MUSIC REVIEW : Richard Thompson Shows Two Equally Satisfying Sides

March 17, 1994|CHRIS WILLMAN

As an electric guitarist, Richard Thompson is a string-bender extraordinaire, never bending to convention with his definably weird, siren-like, jazz-baiting solos that insanely intensify and bite, sting and buzz around the key. On acoustic, though, he's something else altogether: a correct English gentleman, doing the most muss-less, careful, dead-on picking a craftsman could cultivate. He's the Jekyll and Hyde of guitar heroes.

Thompson's show on Tuesday at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre was a pleasing trade-off between those two equally satisfying sides, compromising the intensity of his full-band "rock" shows with the dry wit and unassuming nimbleness of his "folk" sets. Backed by three veterans equally adept at hard rock and traditional Irish folk, Thompson afforded fans a rare configuration that had him alternately cutting loudly loose and staying quietly, properly tight. If it lacked momentum, it gave good breadth.

Nine of the 24 songs came from his latest album, "Mirror Blue," by no means one of his more memorable. This didn't matter much, as such new songs as "The Way That It Shows" sometimes picked up a fury rivaling the chaos of his standby "Shoot Out the Lights." With former Fairport Convention cohort Dave Mattacks drumming and Pentangle "rival" Danny Thompson on bass, and Pete Zorn weighing in with whistle, soprano sax, et al., Thompson also fed the faithful choice, somber obscurities such as "The Sun Never Shines on the Poor."

* Richard Thompson also plays Friday at the Coach House, 33157 Camino Capistrano, San Juan Capistrano , (714) 496-8930. $18.50. 9 p.m.

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