Thursday, May 16, 2002

Sentimental, witty Loudon charms baby-boomers

Concert review

By Chris Varias
Enquirer contributor

        “You're 55 now,” shouted Loudon Wainwright III, finishing a song, “and you're living alone!”

        Of course, the you're didn't necessarily refer to the audience at Mr. Wainwright's concert at the 20th Century Theatre Wednesday night. In fact, it's Mr. Wainwright who's 55 years old. And like the other memorable moments in the singer-songwriter's solid 90-minute performance, “Living Alone” was personal, funny, confessional and cynical — traits that he's become famous for in a 30-year-plus career and traits that were accentuated in the live setting.

        Funny defines his act the most (he had a hit in 1973 with “Dead Skunk,” which he didn't perform), and funny describes all but a few consciously serious moments in the 24-song set. It was a testament to how a singer can enchant a full house with just his acoustic guitar, his voice and his wit.

        One song began: “I remember sex, that thing we used to do...,” which seemed to strike a chord with the predominantly baby-boomer-aged crowd. The lyrics were altogether goofy but a heartbroken sentimentality stirred beneath the surface.

        There was no such depth to “Tonya's Twirls,” a talking blues about “trailer park” figure skater Tonya Harding. Tonya jokes are old, but Mr. Wainwright somehow found fresh laughs in her saga.

        A pair of songs mocking country music, however, seemed beneath him, a way too easy target, but they resonated with the crowd.

        As much as the audience laughed along to the jokes, they fell silent during the show's poignant moments. Mr. Wainwright, who lives in Brooklyn, sang a new song about taking the subway into Manhattan, and how he now takes the A train instead of the C, which used to make its second stop at the World Trade Center.

        He also spoke extensively about the deaths of the first two Loudons, and sang four serious songs in a row about, in order, siblings, his father, his mother's parents, and his father's father.

        So he's terribly sentimental, and he's funny. The traits merged well in “Talking New Bob Dylan,” which he wrote a decade ago in honor of his predecessor's 50th birthday, and “Last Man on Earth,” in which the singer not-so-bravely faces the turn of the century.


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- Sentimental, witty Loudon charms baby-boomers
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