Richard Thompson has been on the road promoting his 19th solo album, Ship to Shore. He is also celebrating his 75th birthday year. Over a career that stretches almost as long, he may not always have received the popular praise and accolades bestowed upon his contemporaries, but he has survived many of them and more than earned his place as a much-revered folk-rock elder statesmen. An admired guitarist, lyricist-cum-story teller, he has honed the skills that are worthy of the hallowed stage of The Royal Albert Hall. A musician’s musician, he has worked alongside and influenced many over the years.

Tonight is celebration of those 75 years, and the setlist takes a turn from the recent promotion of Thompson’s new album. His son, Jack Thompson (a musician too, like many in the Thompson family), takes on the role of compère and introduces the night ahead with the warning that there will be a fair dose of nepotism along with some very special guests. As his father steps out - iconic in his beret, red Stratocaster, trimmed beard and crooked smile – there is his long-time companion Dave Mattacks from Fairport Convention days taking his seat behind the drums. Thompson gives a quick introduction before breaking into opening number What’s Left to Lose.

Thompson’s grandson, Zak Hobbs, is on guitar, and his wife Zara Phillips on backing vocals. The first of many guests is James Walbourne (The Rails) who rocks out with Thompson on Hard On Me. Michael Doucet takes it to another level with his fiddle skills when he’s invited on stage to accompany Thompson on new song Singapore Sadie. John Etheridge (Soft Machine) is the next guest to accompany the band as they play John the Gun, in honour of the late great Sandy Denny. That pretty much wraps up a short first set, and it soon becomes clear that it’s been a warm up for what is to follow.

Whilst the audience are still returning from the bar, the legendary Danny Thompson is helped onto the stage to the sound of revered applause and cheers as he takes a little time to settle himself with his double bass. At 85 years of age, he’s looking a tad frail, and it’s not lost on the audience that this could be his last performance. The second set gets underway with Al Bowlly’s Heaven, and Danny’s playing is as captivating as ever. It’s emotional to witness.
A song or two later and Ralph McTell is stepping out on to stage to sing a couple of his songs, including From Clare to Here - the special guests are getting more special by the minute. Michael Doucet shows off his fiddle skills and sings his own song Le Jig Francais. Zara Phillips sings her own composition Perfect Stranger. Other Thompson family members join the milieu on stage at one point. Then its Glenn Tilbrook and Chris Difford performing their Squeeze numbers Take Me I’m Yours, Up The Junction, and Tempted – Tilbrook sounding as fresh as ever.

Richard Thompson seems to be very happy giving over the stage to such fine musicians and songwriters. He only plays three songs off the new album, and classics such as Beeswing and 1952 Vincent Black Lightning are nowhere to be heard. And to add one more surreal twist to the show, Crowded House step out – the whole band – and steal the spotlight with three of their own songs including Don’t Dream It’s Over and Weather With You.

With time running out Thompson brings it back around to perform Tear Stained Letter which stretches into a guitar duel jam session. Closing the evening with Fairport classic Meet On The Ledge, it’s only fitting that Richard Thompson, celebrating a milestone birthday, is surrounded by so many of his friends and family as they sang together the well-known chorus. All in all, a wonderful night showcasing high-class musicianship and song writing from a special select few.