I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight is the second album released by Richard Thompson and the first including and credited with his then wife, Linda Thompson as Richard and Linda Thompson. It was released by Island Records in the UK in 1974. Although never commercially successful and critically ignored on its release, it is now considered to be a masterpiece and one of the finest works of both Richard and Linda singularly or together.
After the marked lack of success achieved by his first album, Henry the Human Fly, British singer/songwriter/guitarist Richard Thompson started a personal and professional relationship with Linda Peters, a session singer. I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight was the first album by the duo of Richard and Linda Thompson.
Where his first album was treated harshly by the critics, the second was eventually hailed as a masterpiece. Recorded on a shoestring budget in a matter of days (but sitting unreleased for nearly 8 months while the record label tried to decide what to do with it), it is now regarded as a classic of English folk rock and one of the Thompsons' finest achievements.
Initially ignored by reviewers, I Want to See the Bright Lights Tonight later came to be highly regarded. Robert Christgau rated it highly when it was re-released as one half of Live! (More or Less) noting that "[they] don't sentimentalize about time gone—they simply encompass it in an endless present." When it was re-released in 1984, along with other albums in the Thompsons' catalog, Kurt Loder writing in Rolling Stone described it as a "timeless masterpiece" with "not a single track that's less than luminous".
More recent reviews are equally complimentary. AllMusic notes that the album is "nothing short of a masterpiece" and calls it "music of striking and unmistakable beauty".Q (May 2007, p. 135): "After his 1971 departure from Fairport Convention, Richard Thompson found his ideal foil in recent bride Linda. A hugely inventive guitarist, he gives full vent to his talent on this dark, brooding album. Indeed, he never quite recaptured the murky demons inside the likes of 'Withered and Died' ever again."
• In the 2012 American science fiction action thriller film Looper, written and directed by Rian Johnson, the strains of "Bright Lights" can be heard near the end of the film. The song itself is used in a love scene earlier in the film.
• The song was used in the opening sequence of the second season of the HBO comedy-drama television show Enlightened, which starred Laura Dern.