Sunday, May 6, 2012

Concert Review: Loudon Wainwright III at the Cedar Cultural Center

Loudon Wainwright III
Last night I saw Loudon Wainwright III in concert at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis. It was a really fun show, as Wainwright is a very engaging performer to see live. I’m not familiar with very much of Wainwright’s work, but I think last night’s concert was a good introduction. Wainwright sang a lot of new songs from his latest album, “Older Than My Old Man Now,” which just came out in April. The album focuses on mortality, and it was specifically inspired by the fact that, at age 65, Wainwright is now older than his father ever got to be. (Loudon Wainwright II was a longtime editor and writer for Life magazine who passed away in 1988 just days shy of his 64th birthday.) The songs that Loudon sang last night were a mixture of funny and sad. Some were serious meditations on aging; others were humorous songs like “My Meds,” about all the prescription medications Loudon now takes. 

On stage, Wainwright is a very funny, engaging performer. He really acts out his songs as he sings them, which makes him very fun to watch. It’s clear that he still enjoys performing, as he smiles most of the time he’s onstage. Performing solo, he had the audience in the palm of his hand from the beginning of the show. Many of Wainwright’s songs focus on family relationships, whether it’s the relationship between him and his parents or himself and his own children. Wainwright performed most of the songs from “Older Than My Old Man Now,” but he also mixed in some older songs like “Red Guitar,” and “Five Years Old.” (No, he didn’t play “Dead Skunk,” his one hit single.) Wainwright is able to take simple ideas and make a song from them, which isn’t as easy to do as it might sound. He sang one song about an older man taking his dog for a walk which was very funny and silly. It’s a simple idea for a song, but he made it entertaining. His song “In C,” from “Older Than My Old Man Now,” mixes humor and sadness very well. Loudon starts the song by joking that when he plays piano it’s always in the key of C. But the song turns into an eloquent meditation on family relationships, and at the end of the song Wainwright sings the funny and heartbreaking line, “And if families didn’t break apart/I suppose there’d be no need for art.” 

I enjoyed seeing Loudon live, he’s an artist I’ve heard about for a long time but haven’t investigated yet. My wife is a big fan of Loudon’s son Rufus, and I’ve started to get into Rufus’s music through her. I’m looking forward to exploring more of Loudon’s music. I bought “Older Than My Old Man Now” at the concert and got it signed by Loudon after the show. He’s a really funny guy off stage as well, and he was very nice to talk to.

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