Loudon Wainwright III -- January 19, 1996 (Early Show)

The Bottom Line, New York City

Commentary:

From: ttrocco@nylink.org
Subject: Bottom Line Review 1/19/96
Date: Sat, 20 Jan 1996 14:36:06 -0500 (EST)

Loudon Wainwright III
The Bottom Line
Friday, January 19, 1995 early show

reviewed by Tom Trocco

Loudon Wainwright returned to The Bottom Line a bit mellower, but just as able to open old wounds, expose hypocrisy, and make us think about life, the universe, and everything.

I attended the Friday early show with a friend who is a teacher at a New York City private school. Before the show began, a teenage girl came over to our table to say hi--he had been her teacher a few years back. Turns out she was Lucy Roche, there to see her dad, Loudon. And it was to be a real family affair, with another daughter, Martha, taking to the stage to sing both duets with her dad and a solo.

Loudon began the show by announcing "We have a lot of guitars on stage tonight and we're selling all of them after the show." This theme continued throughout, with much promotion of his CD signing ("only signing CDs, no body parts") as well as cocaine and used magazines from 6th Avenue street vendors for sale at the bar.

Songs spanned almost the entire gamut of his 26-year recording career, with daughter Martha taking her mother Kate's part on the finale, Old Paint from Album II. The twenty-five song set (with one song performed by Martha sans dad) lasted 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The performances were great, with four excellent as yet unrecorded songs (all new to me). Loudon played guitar on all songs except Between and The Birthday Present (a Capella) and Red Guitar (piano). David Mansfield joined Loudon on ten songs playing acoustic guitar, slide guitar, mandolin, bouzouki, and fiddle.

Rock star sellouts, Tonya Harding, the Hubble Space Telescope, genetic engineering, fatherhood, and the advantages of lesbianism did not escape unscathed.

The opening song, What Gives, is a typically acerbic attack on those performers who would cash in on a band mate or relative who has "flown the coop". Paul, George, Ringo, Hank Williams Jr. and Natalie Cole are fair game in this new song.

Another new song, [Tonya's Twirls], is about Tonya Harding and the effect of commercialization on ice skating, but can be read as a song of lost innocence; Loudon's Caroline No. The song ends:

Ice used to be a nice thing
When you laced up figure skates
Now it's a thing to win a medal on
For the United States
But once there were no lutzes, axles, pirouettes, or twirls
Just giddy slipping sliding laughing happy little girls.
Four Mirrors, another new song ("I wrote it back stage just before the show") was inspired by a visit in the summer Loudon made to NY in which he stayed in his stepmother's house (which he announced they rented to him, much to the amusement of the audience). With photos of his father, his father's family, Loudon, and his sisters, as well as four mirrors, Loudon was confronted daily with what we all face-becoming our own fathers and mothers as we age.

Martha's solo, A Question of Etiquette (the first song she ever wrote, with Martha on acoustic guitar and David Mansfield on fiddle) is in the tradition of Wainwright and the McGarrigles-a song about family. At twenty, she's venturing into songwriting and performing at about the same age her dad did. The song explores the complexity of relationships between step-siblings. Possibly if Martha begins to explore other issues she'll really find her own voice.

It was in her two duets with her dad that Martha really shone. The harmonies on The End Has Begun and Old Paint added an element that I realize I've missed since harmonies with Kate on Album II, Attempted Moustache, and Unrequited. With dad and mom both musicians and singers, it's no wonder Martha has a great voice, husky with a kind of country twang.

When an audience member shouted out, "bring out Rufus!", Loudon announced that "He'll be out next year-My son Rufus has a record deal-it'll be frightening, that one". Nervous laughter from the audience followed. Hmmm. Will Rufus bare the hurts and demons of his own soul?

Only a few things marred the show. Loudon (unconsciously, he said) sabotaged the beginning of Father Daughter Dialogue by stopping Martha after one line because he had the wrong tuning, though Martha got wild applause after she completed her verse; there were a couple of false starts to He Said, She Said, until he remembered the chords; there were a great deal of tuning problems (possibly because the temperature dropped about 30 degrees outside during the show?); and, of course, the ubiquitous sound of bottles being thrown into the bins by the waitresses.

In answering a question from the audience, yes, Loudon informed us that it was him on M*A*S*H* in 1975. To end all M*A*S*H* questions, Loudon informs us that Alan Alda was really nice. They were all really nice.

And no, he didn't do Dead Skunk this time (as he did two years ago at The Bottom Line).

Song List:

The playlist was as follows (with album title abbreviations in parens):
Loudon solo
     What Gives
     Five Years Old (F&W)
     That Hospital (GM)
     Between (H)
     He Said, She Said (CM)
     I Suppose (GM)
     Whatever Happened to Us (U)
     Tonya's Twirls
Loudon & David Mansfield
     Grown Man (GM)
     Thank you, Mr. Hubble
     1994 (GM)
     A Year (GM)
     The Picture (H)
     The Doctor (H)
Loudon Solo
     Four Mirrors
Loudon & Martha
     Father/Daughter Dialogue (GM)
Loudon, Martha & David
     The End Has Begun (GM)
Martha & David
     Question of Etiquette
Loudon & David
     Swimming Song (AM)
Loudon Solo
     Red Guitar (piano) (III)
     The Birthday Present [#1] (GM)
     April Fools' Day Morn (F&W)
     A Father and a Son (H)
     IWIWAL (GM)
Loudon & David
     Dreaming (GM)
Loudon, Martha, & David
     Old Paint (II)