Live | Loudon Wainwright III @ Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago

Emerging from the darkness, Loudon Wainwright III walks on stage strumming his guitar in the darkness. Lights come up on a stage set with a chair and a circular table with three water glasses. Behind is a video screen. A banjo sits at the ready, along with a piano and a clothes rack holding a three-piece suit. Newly mustached and goateed, Loudon opens with Surviving Twin, a tale of the inherent battle between fathers and sons.

Throughout the night the scene shifts from Loudon’s songs to the writings of his father, Loudon Wainwright, Jr. who wrote a column from Life Magazine for the better part of three decades. Through his dad’s columns, The View From Here, Wainwright’s posthumous collaboration tells the tale of three men who share a name. Their joys and sorrows become the narrative of this performance piece.

The songs date from throughout his career, repurposed in a brand new way. As Wainwright explains, “My dad never got the chance to say, ‘fuck you, Dad!’ just one of the emotions on display in this piece about emotional connections that tie together three generations of Loudons, Jr. viewing Sr. and Loudon III, viewing Jr.

Songs are interspersed with Loudon, Jr.’s Life Columns, with headlines appearing on the screen while the III presents the columns. Introducing Being A Dad, Loudon makes clear a commonly held parental sentiment, “You end despising Walt Disney.” One particular tale relates the of his dad getting a suit made in London, and in the process Loudon doffs his pants revealing his red print boxers, before he ends up donning one of the suits his father actually had made in London during the 60s. Another emotional segment of Surviving Twin deals with the life and death of John Henry, the family dog.

Along the way you begin to understand who Loudon Wainwright III is and how he is very much a product of the Loudon’s who came before. In the end what we learn is less about the Loudons than it is about life itself.

Words by: Bob Fish

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