January 30, 2011

Concert #578 - Richard Thompson's "Cabaret Of Souls" at the Royce Hall (November 19, 2010)

You don't often mention "RT" and "disappointment" in the same sentence, but on this occasion, I did. After about one hour and twenty five minutes of decent music, the performers reached the end of the show, they took a few bows, smiled and waived at the cheering crowd, left the stage, came back, more bows, more waiving, left again, then the lights went on and it was all over ... What? No encore?? Are you kidding me??? After not even 90 minutes of music??? It took me two hours of tough driving to get to UCLA on a wet Friday night, so yes, I was disappointed, to put it mildly.

RT was surrounded by well-known musicians - Harry Shearer, Judith Owen, Debra Dobkin, David Piltch and Pete Zorn - plus the Idyllwild Arts Academy Orchestra, all wearing costumes, fancy hairdos and plenty of face paint. The whole atmosphere was totally different from any of my many previous encounters with Richard. The music was good, but not great and Richard kept a relatively low profile throughout the evening.

Judith Owen

Some of the best moments of the evening belonged to long-time RT collaborator Judith Owen. The Idyllwild string orchestra was very good as well. Harry Shearer, Judith's husband, was the narrator of the show, so he didn't sing much.

I would have loved to have RT come back with at least some of the performers and do a couple of his classic songs, but it wasn't to be.

Harry Shearer


  1. Oh, I am sorry, but you are so off-base in your review of this show. Dear Gabe, it sounds as if you weren't there at all{

    From the moment we walked into the theatre it was an 'experience'; I was so grateful for that! It was not a concert, it was a theatrical experience with jaw-dropping music! I was enthralled for 80 minutes, and of course there was no encore! You would never have the actors from a hit play come out and recite more lines after they are finished!

    I feel you have entirely missed the point of this incredibly moving 'piece'. You were hoping for individual songs, some that you were familiar with. This was a beautiful, moving entity in itself with a story and a point. I'm afraid you missed that. I flew out to LA just to see this show. I will fly anywhere again to see it a second time.

    Please open your mind and look beyond regular, simple, song by song events. Don't miss something this special! And there are links that tell you about the development of this piece, did you read those? I think that if you do some more homework and get a chance to see it again you will drastically rewrite your blog review.

  2. The whole atmosphere of the show was different from any other Richard Thompson concert because if wasn't a Richard Thompson concert.

    It was a truly original and unique performance. It wasn't a play, a concert, a musical or opera, but it shared aspects of each of those things for an amazing sight and sound experience.

    From the time the performers hit the staged I was mesmerized. Following the story, then meeting each of the characters was a unlike anything I've experienced.

    If you read the program, you were an actual participant in the show, as was every attendee. When you walked in the door, greeted by the masked ushers, you were dead. The entire night was you at a transition point between when you die and when you reach your final destination. The keeperes of that realm, Harry Shearer and company, offered up some entertainment by allowing some of the recently dead, Thompson and Owen, to voice there attributes. So with subtle changes of costume and mannerism, Thompson and Owen introduced you to the recently deceased in the most clever and entertaining way possible.

    The show flew by so fast, as most good shows do, and my friend and I walked out of Royce Hall with our jaws on the ground, wishing there were more characters and that we could immediately see the show again.

    At the recent second benefit show at McCabes, I had Richard Thompson and asked if they would be performing the show again, he said yes they were planning on it. I suggest you see it again, putting all preconceptions out of your mind and savor it for the exact thing it is, a unique, highly creative original piece created by the man you seem to have such respect for, but it is unlike anything he, or anyone else has done before.

    I hope you can walk away then with the same appreciation of Cabaret Of Souls and know that Richard Thompson is more that a prolific creative song writer.