LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III
- Chaim Tannenbaum
On a dark winter night there is nothing quite as comforting as walking into the rather luxurious gilded and marbled interior of The Phil. With friendly staff and the blast of warm air which greet us, this won’t be a seedy affair with pints in plastic cups and sweat dripping off the ceiling, a slightly more refined affair. And this seems rather suitable for the slightly older crowd that LOUDON WAINWRIGHT III has attracted tonight, some sixties original folk fans, some who’ve left it behind and are back for a nostalgia trip, others still fully immersed in it. Despite the notably older crowd who have gathered tonight Wainwright has influenced generation of musician with the likes of Big Star and Bombay Bicycle Club amongst thousands of notable fans, so it’s no reason to catch a glimpse of the occasional younger face. However what unites everyone is the excitement of catching a glimpse of an icon in the flesh.
But first we have the joy of CHAIM TANNENBAUM. AT first this may not be a name that rings clear but having played on some of Wainwright’s most famous albums, it’s obvious to see their friendship and bond through music and wry sardonic humour. Having spent most of his life as a philosophy lecturer Tannenbaum has emerged as this late life cult folk hero. Breathing new life into forgotten folk songs which only find life in live performance, he jumps between such songs and his own work, all delivered with a delicate confidence. “This is going to be my last one but it’s quite a long one,” states Tannenbaum who bowls us backwards with the romanticism and isolation of a London now gone in an age of billionaire oligarchs and extreme gentrification.
Our appetite whetted for more rich acoustic ballads we head back in once more to the rich auditorium. Joining a hat stand, a banjo, a piano and a guitar onstage comes Wainwright himself who’s met by deafening applause it’s obvious to see the passion that the singer-songwriter enthuses in the room. Starting his first song by saying “this is one of my death and decay songs,” there is a surprising amount of life in them. At the age of 70 he seems to have more energy than most 20 year olds blasting out lyrics with a virility and lust for life which seems infectious. With large levels of conversation between each song it feels less like a gig and more of a group of friends around a campfire with one guy getting so excited that he runs towards the stage screaming “Isrite Loudon” before shaking his hand and returning to his seat. There’s no aloofness, no snobbery everyone’s just on the same level. Alongside the banter, he delivers monologues from his journalist father’s columns acted out and covering topics from fatherhood through to a good British suit. What really hits us hardest though is the sheer expanse and diversity of his work from comedy songs through to political ballads what really stands out in the set is Motel Blues. “Nowadays this song sounds a bit like something would say,” he chuckles with uneasy laughter but this moment seems to interlink his young self with himself today decades apart but united in song. This may just be the secret to his seemingly eternal youthfulness.