Thompson Family review – generations show talent, while Linda looks on

Kings Place, London
Teddy and Kami Thompson did a remarkable thing getting their parents Richard and Linda to record together again. If only mum had got up from the audience to sing live

Christmas should be a time for patching up family feuds, and Teddy Thompson is not just a writer of fine songs but a diplomatic genius. It’s over 30 years since the very public break-up of Richard and Linda Thompson, once the finest folk duo in the country, but their son has encouraged a musical reconciliation. Six years ago he persuaded his parents to join him at a memorable Christmas benefit for Amnesty International, and last month saw the release of the Thompson Family album, produced by Teddy and including both Richard and Linda, along with Teddy’s brother Jack, sister Kami and her husband James Walbourne (aka the Rails), his brother Rob, and nephew Zak Hobbs.

Now came the live show, the hottest folk ticket of the year, which didn’t include Linda in the publicised line-up. She has just recorded a new album but finds public performance very difficult. So would she appear?

Sadly not. She was there in the audience, supporting her children and ex-husband, but told me she “wasn’t up to it”. Which was sad – her absence left a gap in an emotional and historic concert. It started with Teddy singing Family, a poignant tearjerker in which he praised his famous parents, comparing himself to Sean Lennon, before Richard took over with the gutsy and edgy One Life At a Time, supported by his children. As he began to introduce the band, Kami teased: “You can’t remember our names, can you?”

What followed was an evening of family banter and varied music, in which the lesser-known Thompsons were given solo spots alongside the stars. There were some remarkable performances, from Richard’s stomping Tear-Stained Letter, with backing from Teddy and Kami, through to the Rails’ emotional treatment of I Long For Lonely and Teddy’s poignant solo Home, dedicated to Linda. Just one song from mum would have made it perfect.

• At Kings Place tonight, Friday 19 December


Robin Denselow

The GuardianTramp

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