Loudon Wainwright III Takes Performance to a Whole New Level at Landmark

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Mixing music with the literary, Loudon Wainwright III treated a Port Washington audience to an unusually personal show on Saturday, April 26, 2014. He was aptly introduced by WFUV DJ John Platt as “the Poet Laureate of the Boomer generation, a guy who speaks to our generation.” Few songwriters have been as prolific as Wainwright, who has managed to delve into deeply private issues of love, loss, being a parent, and being a child, and turn these introspections into songs both funny and heartbreaking.

Saturday’s show was particularly wonderful because, as part of the promotion for a new CD which will be released in the summer, he is performing new songs about his relationship with his father, and combining these with readings taken from magazine columns written by his father, a writer. Loudon Wainwright the second clearly had a way with words, which his son inherited. And though the style was different, pairing spoken-word pieces with songs worked wonderfully for Wainwright and provided a lot of insight into the complex relationship between parent and child.

He opened the set with one of his new songs – “Surviving Twin” – where he describes himself as being the surviving twin of his father. Wainwright manages to make the audience laugh but also to feel the pain of an adult child who is living the rest of his life without his father. It’s a difficult line to walk, but he did it well.

Wainwright played guitar, banjo, and on one song (“Another Song in C”), piano. Some standouts from the upcoming CD included “Haven’t Got the Blues Yet” and “Spaced,” an entertaining song about alternate side of the street parking with the lyrics “A car in the city is a pain in the ass, an albatross made of steel, chrome and glass.” The senior Wainwright’s essay – “Life With and Without Father,” written about his father, Loudon Wainwright the first, was the perfect intro to “Half Fist.” Wainwright’s choice of pairing was almost always right on.

If you’ve never seen Wainwright perform before (Read my 2011 review of his last appearance in this venue), you might be somewhat shocked. He throws himself completely into the music – kicking up his leg, sticking out his tongue, grimacing, and generally acting like someone suffering from Tourette’s Syndrome. Don’t let this alarm you – if anything, it adds to his dynamic (and I really mean dynamic!) performance. [Kudos to photographer Steven Sandick who really captured Wainwright’s essence in his photos.]

Standouts included the audience favorite “Daughter” (which Wainwright did not write), “The Picture” (an audience request), the amusing “Man with a Dog in the City,” and a song written for his son Rufus’ birthday, “I Knew Your Mother.” Wainwright closed with a song about his mother – “White Winos” – followed by a reading of his father’s work. Truly, this was an outstanding performance, and Wainwright must be commended for his enormous wealth of creativity and production. If you’re looking to see a performer who can make you laugh and make you cry (possibly at the same time), Loudon Wainwright III is your man.

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