Loudon Wainwright III, perhaps better known to people my age as father of Martha and Rufus, a thought which in hindsight does him no justice at all. As he walks on stage, fumbles with his guitar microphone and jokes ‘we have a flacid… it’s folk music right? Who cares!’ Loudon manages to sum up his entire set. Comedy mixed with poignant prose, Loudon’s dry humour sees the audience reactions range from bursts of laughter, to silent reflection.
His music is something of a personal exorcism, from homage to Martha in Five Years Old to an exploration of his physical shape in My Meds Loudon leaves no part of his life unturned. But he does so with a wry smile and as he downs the guitar for piano led Another Song In C it’s clear he knows how to pitch his set. He allows the more personal numbers to linger long enough to have weight, whilst interlacing the more whimsical numbers at the right points so it never feels depressing.
Loudon claims ‘I’m writing about death and destruction now, it used to be shitty love’ but as he invites daughter Lucy Wainwright Roche to join him for You Can’t Fail Me Now Loudon’s set seems more routed in family that anything else. Whether it’s reference to his sister in The Picture or newer song All In The Family, behind the humour there seems to be a man desperate to make peace with his past.
Music aside, Loudon’s stage presence also carries a weight, his contorted facial expressions and lizard-like tongue flicks leaving even the more reserved audience members unable to resist a smile. Audience requests flow thick and fast at the end of the set, White Winos, Tip The Waitress and Primrose Hill all being granted. Metaphorically tipping his hat to Bob Dylan’s birthday with Talking New Bob Dylan and closing with the 40 year old Needless To Say it reads almost as if Loudon is subtly ensuring his name is one day held up as another of the greats.