Last updated on April 27th, 2023 at 09:19 pm
Few singer-songwriter careers compare to that of Loudon Wainwright III. Over 50+ years and many, many albums, he has proven himself to be one of the best songwriters ever. Known for his sharp, wit-infused writing and lively performances, Loudon displayed in his Wednesday night performance at the Dakota why there is no working songwriter like him.
At 76 years old, Loudon performed with the energy and spirit of a performer half his age. Even with mortality as a driving theme of the set, he performed with more passion than any artist you’ll see, young or old.
One beautiful duality of his music is that it can be reflective, melancholy, and sentimental but also wickedly funny. Though different songs can lean one way or another, these elements co-exist alongside one another in most of them.
All were on display throughout the set as Loudon sang and told stories. There were the reflections on aging (“How old is 75?” was a late-set highlight), humorous memories about his youth, with a few long-form readings of his own writing mixed in.
Family was another common theme, pulling from his large catalog of work. Starting with an early pairing of the nostalgic “The Picture” (one of his best songs) with the later period gem, “I Knew Your Mother,” Loudon sang a lot about his relatives and family in general.
Some of these tunes were funny (“Fam Vac”) and some more solemn, but Loudon’s voice and sharp writing shone through on all. Other standout tracks in the set included an excellent cover of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright,” early 70’s novelty hit “Dead Skunk” and a rendition of “The Swimming Song,” which is arguably the best song in his beloved deep catalog.
The whole performance felt energetic and engaging, but above all, it was authentic. When Loudon performs, you know you’re in for a great set, not just because the songs are great but because of the connection he fosters and shares with the audience. Watching him perform in such an intimate venue was a true pleasure.