Richard Thompson appears as the British equivalent of Neil Young in some ways. Both emerged, like cream to the top, from multi-songwriter ‘60s folk/rock bands that were equal parts progressive and traditional. Fairport Convention long outlasted Buffalo Springfield, of course, but Thompson’s tenure in the band was brief. Both Young and Thompson are idiosyncratic lead guitarists celebrated beyond temperance by those for whom feel-versus-technique is a political issue. Both are distinctive, instantly recognizable character singers and sturdy, steady, unfussy songwriters whose catalogues are notable for their multi-decade consistency as well as for their not-infrequent spikes of genius.
Both were on fire in the early-to-mid-‘70s, Young with his alternately hot and cool releases and Thompson with his career-peak work as songwriter on those revelatory Richard and Linda Thompson records (Shoot Out the Lights gets all the love, but I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight, Hokey Pokey and Pour Down like Silver are right up there). Each catalogue features hidden gems in otherwise-muddled decades, like Thompson’s Mock Tudor (1999). Each in his own way is a critics’-pick, a cognoscenti darling, an aging hipster’s last defense.
The difference is that with Young, for some reason, those hip cognoscenti seem to include practically everyone – while Thompson, one of Rolling Stone’s Top 20 guitarists of all time, makes frequent solo stops at places like the Bearsville Theater and, on Thursday, April 23, at Club Helsinki in Hudson. But this midsized, acoustically pristine club is a much better place to catch a living legend than the Brendan Byrne Arena (or whatever it is called) anyway. In the intimate and crafted environment of Helsinki, all the subtle weirdness and articulate sting of Thompson’s guitar-playing will tickle your nosehairs, and the fractured emotional depth of his deceptively simple songcraft will shine.
Richard Thompson, Thursday, April 23, 8 p.m., $65/$45, Club Helsinki, 405 Columbia Street, Hudson; (518)828-4800, https://helsinkihudson.com.