Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Loudon Wainwright III: Show Report

Let us just preface this report with a couple comments.  Yes, we realize that the Loudon show was over a month ago.  (Sometimes time gets away from us.  What can you do?) But in all seriousness, we had an enthusiastic concert-goer who agreed to write up a show review for us.  We were happy to give him the cyber space if he would provide the copy.  And so it goes... we give you Grant Olson of DeKalb and his take on the February 1st show:

The first time I saw Loudon Wainwright was at the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis – it must have been about 1973, but such recollections can be a bit foggy.  He stood up, solo acoustic and ripped into his original ballads.  A couple years ago, I saw Loudon in Milwaukee at the Pabst Theater with Richard Thompson – they were billing the tour “Loud & Rich.”  At that show, however, I wondered if he was losing it; he kept looking at his watch and seemed unfocused.  When I heard he was coming to the Uptown Grill, I did not hesitate.  I am still a loyal fan.  And when Loudon took the stage on an extremely cold night, he lit up with “You Don’t Want to Know,” which begins by proclaiming just how cold it was:  “…colder than the shoulder of my old flame…” and so on.  We all warmed up very quickly.

It soon became clear that Loudon was back, and that he had an agenda for this visit to the Grill.  Part of his meditations bemoaned the aging process (“I Remember Sex”) and another part of them dealt with trying to account for family.  Mixing media, he moved from his guitar and songs to an iPad loaded with stories.  He tried to account for Loudon I, his dad Loudon II and, in the process, himself, Loudon Wainwright III.  His father used to write a column for the now-defunct LIFE magazine known as “The View from Here.”  Loudon, with a renewed appreciation for his dad, mixed excerpts from this magazine column and used those as segues into song.  His mission was bold and daring.  At one point, he called for quiet, sat on a stool with no notes, and then related about a six-minute story of a family dog; the story was full of allegories and insights about how a pet can mirror human tendencies and help bond family members, despite their differences.  Despite any differences of opinion about Loudon’s brave multimedia approach, there was no question that he was back on.

Finally, in his quest to cover the family, he mentioned his son Rufus’s wedding to a German man named Jorn, whose name he exaggeratedly drew out with some ambivalence.  He mentioned attending the couple’s wedding in Montauk, stating also that with 258 people in attendance he was glad he did not have to pay for it.  And then he broke into “The Days We Die,” which he performs as a duet with Rufus on his latest album – the song ponders the possibilities of change and acceptance.

Before closing, he took requests, gladly roping his mother into the evening with “White Winos”:  “Mother liked her white wine / she’d have a glass or three…”  And he was also willing to play his classic, often-covered “Motel Blues” (“from the 1970s,” he noted with chagrin); although these days, in keeping with the theme of the eve, he said he only invites people up to his motel room to help him try and connect the damn Wi-Fi!  Loudon proved, with this gig at the Uptown Grill, that he still has his stuff – he never missed a beat.

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