Loudon Wainwright III took up singing and songwriting somewhere around the time he dropped out of college, finding little success outside of critical acclaim at first in his attempts to make his then pretty average life seem "cool."
"Like most serious, young, egotistical artists I thought my life, though yet to be cool, was nonetheless interesting," notes Wainwright in his autobiographical essay "My Cool Life."
Finding a surprise hit in 1972's ode to road kill, "Dead Skunk," Wainwright has had a long and critically acclaimed career, finding success in his music as well as his acting career (the TV series "M*A*S*H," Tim Burton's "Big Fish," Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator" and most recently in Cameron Crow's "Elizabethtown"). "Suddenly I did have a pretty cool life. I was the 'Dead Skunk' guy," Wainwright writes of his early success on his Web site. With songs full of personal stories and witty turns-of-phrase, Wainwright is often hailed as one of the most gifted lyricists in music.
The father of a musical dynasty of sorts (son, Rufus Wainwright, is a critically hailed musician in his own right, as is daughter Martha Wainwright and ex-wife folk singer Kate McGarrigle), Wainwright has always delved into his relationships with his family as material for his work, a feature he continues on his most recent album "Here Come the Choppers!"
Wainwright will be bringing his folksy blues inspired sound and crushingly witty lyrics to the Rialto Theater in Loveland today, offering Northern Colorado a chance to catch a lyricist who has become something of a living legend over the years.
Even while considered a legend, Wainwright jokingly laments that his fame has not truly preceded him amongst many crowds. "Why is it that many of you here today aren't quite sure who the hell I actually am, aside from Rufus Wainwright's father?" Wainwright jokes in his essay.
Unafraid to spill his most personal thoughts and troubles in song, Wainwright has been letting audiences know who he is for decades now. For John Punessen of Smiling Dog Productions, it's impressive that so many people across so many age groups know and appreciate Wainwright's work.
"He has fans of all ages," Punessen said. "The younger ones know him more from his movies, and others know him from his albums in the 70s."
Having a startling 21 albums to his name, Wainwright's latest carries on his tradition of both humorous songs with a point and songs of lacerating self-examination that take on topics such as family, death and the passing of time.
Taking a twisted look at the atmosphere of war as well as the consumer culture he finds present in America today, the title song "Here Comes the Choppers!" tells the tale of an unnamed enemy invasion into posh Los Angeles.
"It's just not right… Whole Foods and K-Mart are targets tonight," Wainwright sings in his funny yet thoughtful examination of a war brought far too close to home.
In "Half Fist," Wainwright brings things even closer to home, examining a photo of his long-dead grandfather, Loudon Wainwright I: "My grandmother was his widow, and my father was his son, but I know next to nothing of the first Loudon," sings Wainwright, although he finds in the tales and images of his namesake many of the same faults and traits, something that forces him to examine his own rocky relationship with his children. Sharp yet touching, the song exemplifies Wainwright's ability to cut (sometimes painfully) to the heart of his own and other people's experiences.
For Punessen, having such a consummate singer/songwriter whose smart and sweet songs do indeed work on so many levels is a special treat for Northern Colorado audiences.
"It's great we can get someone national in," he said. "Anyone who'd name an album 'Attempted Mustache' is a pretty good bet."
The Rialto Theatre in Loveland similarly offers a unique experience for concertgoers, as Punessen notes, due to the arranged seating that so many other venues lack.
"It has actual seats," said Punessen of the theatre. "It's a pretty comfortable kind of experience. I got tired of being herded into stadiums, and decided that this was a much different experience."
Perfect for Wainwright's intimate style of songs and songwriting, the Rialto offers a unique encounter for audiences to see a distinctive and legendary singer/songwriter. As Wainwright notes himself in his essay, "Everybody has pretty much the same gory details, which is why autobiography, and art, for that matter, work." Therefore Wainwright's songs and performances therefore have, and continue to, work for audiences of all ages.
For more information on the show, contact The Rialto Theater, 228 E. Fourth Street Loveland, Colorado 80537 at 962-2120. See www.lwiii.com for more information on Loudon Wainwright III