Photos/Review of Loudon Wainwright III, CSPS Hall, Cedar Rapids

By
 Cedar Rapids, IA  (April 29, 2016)
 If you’re like me, you knew something about Loudon Wainwright III, but weren’t a particularly big fan. I remember reading his father’s column in “Life” magazine when I was a boy, and then seeing him as the “Singing Surgeon” in a few episodes of “M*A*S*H*”. Yeah, he’s been nominated for three Grammy’s and one once? He has a long career that is highly regarded by many in the industry.

But, I never really realized just how long and impressive a career he’s had until I did some pre-show research. I didn’t know just how insightful and incisive his song writing is. It was then I realize Loudon is one of those artists who is ridiculously underrated outside of his circle of fans and knowledgeable people in regards to folk music.

OK, so the term “underrated folk musician” is sort of an oxymoron, since in a world where hit songs depend on “the hook” more than decent lyrics and carefully constructed melodies, just about all folk musicians are underrated.

But I digress (I regularly look for an opportunity to use that phrase, and given the wit and satire found in Loudon’s music, I’m in the mood for such phraseology right now).

So it was that my anticipation of Loudon’s concert at CSPS Hall grew considerably than it already was before I did some research and ogling of youtube videos. Here was a singer/songwriter cut from the classic mold: a musical storyteller who could take listeners from the realm of subtle joy to melancholy to hilarity often within the same song. That is an ability the best folk artists have, and it was on abundant display during Loudon’s concert.

Loudon has a wonderful facility to make us laugh while he sings about things that would make for great blues songs (such as being dumped by a lover). A great example is “I’m Alright”. Of course, he can get serious with the same subject as in “Down Drinking at the Bar”. Many of his songs are so outrageously funny and satirical (enhanced by the way he sings them, mugging shamelessly) that you might not think he can nail a tender, contemplative song like “Another Song In C”.

That song was my favorite of the show, played on piano. It’s one of those “bare my soul because that is what I do” type songs that starts out with Loudon making jabs at himself and his way of performing. Then it gets serious in addressing the break up of his marriage and family. We all laughed and cried and I found myself thinking “Dammit, Loudon, now you’ve let us into your world, found out it’s not much different from our own, but you can tell the story better.” Yet even at the end of “Another Song In C”, Loudon gave us a chuckle. That’s the way he is, he wants to leave us on the upside of things, no matter how dire the situation may seem.

This one song left me thinking that all the joking and satire of Loudon’s songs and monologues is so the pain of the losses of his life don’t overwhelm him. Ya gotta laugh to keep from losing your sanity.

As is the case with “classic” folk singers, he had his political song ready, a hilarious tune about dreaming that Donald Trump won the presidential election. Needless to say, Loudon will not be invited to sing at any Trump rallies or the Republican National Convention.

Mr. Wainwright III has also been doing something new in his concerts. For years, due to his father’s fame and certain aspects of their relationship, he didn’t address the fame Loudon Wainwright Jr. had as a journalist. Friday night, he talked about his father, offered a song and stories in his honor, including a delightful monologue based on one of his father’s articles about purchasing his first British tailor-made suits. It revealed that Loudon has finally come to terms with who is father really was, and is not ashamed to love him as he was. This monologue was another highlight of the evening for me.

The evening was such that I have been transformed from “Yeah, I know who that guy is” to a true fan. I’ve discovered something about Loudon Wainwright III that was already known to the scores of fans who packed the house at CSPS Hall (coming from as far as Minnesota and Illinois). Loudon shares my world, and gives voice to things about it that I can’t, or in ways I can’t, making me laugh and cry about the same things. Anyone who can evoke that capacity as well as Loudon Wainwright III did Friday night at CSPS Hall is deserving of far more recognition than he’s received.

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