Out To Lunch Festival
Black Box, Belfast
Friday 25th January 2019

When the programme for the always excellent Out To Lunch festival was announced, one of the most hotly anticipated on the list was the return of Teddy Thompson. Although a frequent visitor to these shores, Thompson hasn’t played Belfast since May 2016, and the Black Box was filled with fans and the inquisitive alike, waiting to hear if he could live up to high expectations. Truth be told, the hugely underrated Londoner, produced a stunning display of vocal dexterity and beautifully crafted songs.

First up to bat, however was Dori Freeman, a young singer songwriter from Virginia. Playing acoustic guitar, and backed on drums by her husband, Nicholas Faulk, Dori rendered a classy set of sweet country tinged songs. Listening to her sweet, easy ear and inflections, it’s easy to reflect on how much influence Emmylou Harris has had on a generation of upcoming singers. Dori Freeman is an artist to keep an ear on.

At nine fifteen Teddy Thompson strides down the middle of the audience, clad in a green jumper, black trousers and walking boots. Without the guitar, he might be confused for a punter looking for the Duke of York. However from the first crystal notes of ‘Don’t Know What I Was Thinking’ we know we are in the presence of a special talent. The bar is set high, and the quality never wavers. He is in easy flowing form tonight and to and fro between artist and audience, enhances an already laid back feel to the night.

He announces he hasn’t played a gig in six months, but there are no signs whatsoever, as he eases into longtime fan favourite ‘I Want The One I Can’t Have’

I was born with a love disease. It’s known as chronic hard to please. I want the one I can’t have. Given choices A and B, I’ll probably go with option C. I want the one I can’t have.

Teddy Thompson live in Belfast

The lyrics on some of the upbeat songs in particular, remind me of Nick Lowe, or even Elvis Costello at their most witty and piquant. But it is the voice, always the voice that sets Teddy apart from others. At times buoyant and brisk, defying one not to sing along, it is on the slower ballads that he really excels. ‘I Wish It Was Over’ being a case in point. Few artists can wring the emotional bind that Thompson delivers in that cool spring like vocal, when he displays the impassioned battle within himself between love and hate. –

I wish it was over. I wish we were through. I wish when my phone rings, it wasn’t always you. I don’t even like you or can’t you tell. Whenever I’m sober, I treat you like hell.

He alludes to the fact that some songs pre-date the “me too movement, but suggests in his defence, that the protagonist, could also be a female, much to the mirth and relief of his fans, glad to see him wriggle off that particular hook.

He is joined back on stage by Dori Freeman and Nicholas Faulk for a few numbers. One of many highlights is ‘Don’t Remind Me’.

New songs are given an airing. ‘Record Player’ and ‘You’re Gonna Miss Me’ suggest the six-month wait until the new album drops, will be well worth it. At times our unfathomable Belfast accent left the man looking a bit bemused at comments thrown by the crowd. But he did did catch a female fan imploring him

-“Do ‘In My Arms’”
“Don’t tell me what to do”

was the Thompson come-back with a bit of a twinkle, “But Okay”. Much to the delight of the crowd.

Thompson makes no excuse for wearing his influences on his set list, and the music is reminiscent of Buddy Holly, and Patsy Cline in equal measures at times. No bad thing, but he stamps all the songs with that beautiful easy vocal style, that is 100% his own.

Lets hope Teddy makes a return visit to the city, very soon!