ARTYFACTS: Loudon Wainwright - songs from the heart (a flawed heart)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Loudon Wainwright - songs from the heart (a flawed heart)

“I get the feeling that you're my sort of demographic” said Loudon as he came on stage. There were indeed a large number of men who looked like the cast from Curb Your Enthusiasm, including me. I use that reference carefully as you can be damn sure that everyone on the room loves both.
He’s 66 coming on 19, with 22 albums under his still trim belt and I’ve been listening to him for nearly 40 years – boy that sounds weird, and still listen to tracks he released on those early albums, especially Attempted Moustache. In any case last night was one of those evenings where artist and audience felt easy with the idea that they’ve spent most of their lives in each others company. The witty banter flowed easily and the audience belted out requests, some of which he played, liked Motel Blues and Primrose Hill. This is the first time I’ve seen him insert narratives into the show, pieces that his dad wrote for LIFE magazine. They were overlong but we forgive him, as we all get a bit ‘overlong’ in our storytelling as the years progress. 
Wainwright has always been an intensely autobiographical song writer, with lots of songs about the way he treated (and mistreated) his now famous offspring. ‘Rufus was a Tit Man’ was the least prophetic, as he turned out to be gay and Loudon hilariously recalled the Long Island wedding, irreverently recalling his role as ‘the father of the…partner’. He then played the song he wrote for the wedding. This is why people love him and his song writing. He’s not balladeer. These songs are straight from the heart, a flawed heart. They’re all about his egoism, mistakes and misjudgements, not an imagined life but a life lived. Sometimes they’re just plain beautiful observations, like the Swimming Song, but mostly they’re wry and a bit twisted.
On this night, most of the songs were about ageing. How brave is that? Not twee, but edgy songs, about aches, sex, walking the dog, being aware of being stalked by death. Sounds odd, but they were life affirming and I felt as though I’d been out for a long, lingering, drunken meal with an old friend.


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