We're Alright

Loudon Wainwright III

Old Town School - Chicago

October 28, 2001

First Appeared in The Music Box, December 2001, Volume 8, #12

Written by John Metzger


That Loudon Wainwright’s October 28 concert at Chicago’s Old Town School mirrored the sentiments reflected on his latest effort Last Man on Earth is certainly no surprise. The album is a deeply personal one, written after both the break-up of a relationship and the death of his mother, and on it, Wainwright has quite a lot to say. He’s always been one to hide his sorrow and his anger behind humorous and witty tales, and if anything, his performance expanded upon the many moods and feelings that shade the disc’s songs.

Indeed, much of the evening was spent mining the turbulence of life and reflecting on the torment of loss and death. But rather than wallowing in self-pity or turning overtly morbid, Wainwright’s mordant caricatures allowed his personal tales and conflicted emotions to transcend his own life and become universally human. The dysfunctional family gathering in Thanksgiving also felt like a fond remembrance as did Surviving Twin’s oft-tempestuous reflections on his father. I’m Alright and I’d Rather Be Lonely put a smile on the face of a broken relationship, while I Remember Sex converged a struggle for connection with a fear of commitment.

But good as these songs were, it was Wainwright’s most recent composition that resonated the strongest. Here, a routine subway ride turned into a surreal nightmare. In the span of just a few short minutes, No Sure Way offered a penetrating glimpse at all of the sadness, grief, and fear that faced New Yorkers as they struggled to find normalcy in the wake of the World Trade Center tragedy. It was a moment of pure, honest emotion portrayed with such serene beauty that suddenly made familial discordance seem utterly unimportant.

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Copyright © 2001 The Music Box