Loudon Wainwright 111

I've been a longtime lover of the work of Loudon Wainwright, ever since I was given a copy of his first album way back when I too was trying to make a name for myself in an acoustic duo on the folk scene with my first husband. But there the parallel ends. For me, life's various twists and turns seemed to get in the way, and once children came along it became impossible to pursue my earliest career choice. Even so, I continued to write songs and play my guitar, always with the intention of resuming, but somehow I never seemed get round to it. 

But Loudon was made of stiffer stuff, always able to turn life events such as marriage break-up and its inevitable family repercussions, into insightful, witty, sometimes poignant, additions to his ever-growing repertoire. With a well-chosen few words, he could paint a powerful picture, with razor-sharp observations of totally ordinary feelings and situations. Everyone could relate to his songs, after all they expressed universal sentiments, delivered with self-mocking sarcasm, and a sensitive sprinkling of tenderness, always skillfully avoiding the mawkish. You could listen to a Loudon Wainwright 111 song and think that life's not so bad after all, that we were all in it together.

Another thing is that although I've been to only one other of his concerts, I feel a close connection with his very imperfect life. His vulnerability makes the world seem less brutal, persuading us that we all have the same emotions, fears and things we're not proud of. 

So to the concert. It was only the second time I'd been out in the evening since I've been unwell, so I was expecting great things. I get pretty fed up with our ageist society - patronising people banging on about how old a person is instead of the quality of whatever they're doing.  and I got the distinct impression that many thought The Third (as his opener, Chaim Tannenbaum referred to him) may be past it by now. Not on your life! A well balanced set of old and new, no holds barred, no subject out of bounds -it's impossible to pick a favourite, his songs have been part of the backdrop to my life for so long. However, one of his best lines for me is from The Home Stretch:
If the day off doesn'r get you, 
Then the bad reviewer does, 
At least you've been a has been, 
Not just a never was.
This performance was as dynamic and  perceptive as ever, with the bonus of a couple of monologues from his father's archive, written for Life magazine through the 50s, 60s and 70s. Actually, on this showing, The Third could have made a career out of acting.  As well as guitar, he also accompanied himself on piano and banjo, giving a masterful performance on Another Song in C.
The only thing I didn't enjoy was his choice of support. I don't like to give any musician a negative review as I think it takes a lot of clout to stand on a stage and be judged, so I'll just say this. I found Chaim Tannenbaum a little too similar to The Third. However, his songs lacked the sardonic humour and were all too sad and real for me not to find them depressing. I do hope he sold some CDs, but I doubt it as I'm not sure what his target audience is, especially on this tour. He was never going to out-Loudon the man himself and his studied melancholy might have fit better as a contrast to a Zydeco band. However, the two old friends seemed to be having a great time together, so what the hell. Chaim's best line was when he was introducing The Third, stating dryly I'm now going to leave you with the object of your desire. 
Our very old much-played first Loudon album
I came away with all the old songs buzzing in my head, especially the first one on his first album, School Days. Loudon's lyrics hammer home the failings and triumphs of the human condition - no-one does it better. Later that evening I couldn't help thinking he'll probably live to be a hundred and ten. He's his own best therapist, and for all those who love his music, he's a shot in the arm!

Happy Halloween to you all. I shall be Trick or Treating with Izzi and Ava xo


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