It wasn’t quite a real Spinal Tap reunion, but there was an implied story that was happening Tuesday night at Largo in Los Angeles as Michael McKean and Christopher Guest joined Loudon Wainwright III, the headliner of the latest in a series of Judd Apatow-hosted “Juddapalooza” benefit concerts at Largo. Along with returning together some five and a half decades as friends on the musical stage, Wainwright, as fans know die-hards, was seen as a member of Spinal Tap in a cameo in the first-ever filmed comedy sketch featuring the faux band in the late ’70s.
Tuesday’s Largo show featured a healthy mix of Wainwright performing songs from his new album, “Lifetime Achievement,” and Guest and McKean bringing back some of Spinal Tap’s earliest “hits,” plus collaborations on the folk scene. . Also on tap as unannounced guests: Beck, who sang a few of his own songs and Neil Young’s “Old Man” while helping others in the hootenanny, and top producer Greg Kurstin, who proved a game for completely unrehearsed piano contributions and even solos over the course of two hours and more.
“We’ve been coming here since the 1960s,” McKean said. “Or as we call them, the 19 fucking 60s.” Wainwright added, “Best Decade!”, as Guest muttered a joke from the greatest generation. The chatter could have referred to the material that Guest and McKean played as a duo, which consisted of songs from the 60s of Spinal Tap, in the fictional universe where the band played with skiffle and hippie styles before getting together. settling on hard rock – “Listen to What the Flower People Say” (see video below), “Gimme Some Money” and “All the Way Home”. But it also referred to how long the trio was friend, Guest noting that he had been playing with McKean since 1967 and met Wainwright soon after.
The passage of time was also a recurring theme in many of Wainwright’s newly minted songs, which mix whimsy and seduction as they examine the state of his artistry and his heart at 76. That the subject of aging would hardly be avoided was evident from the moment. the famous singer-songwriter came on stage for the first time and realized that, without a roadie, he would have to bend down to pick up the cord to plug into his guitar. “Every time I have to go down and pick something up,” he said, “whether it’s a string or a pick, there’s this moment now where I say, ‘Am I really need this?'”
Apatow kicked off the evening — a benefit for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, like shows earlier in the week featuring Adam Sandler and others — with a healthy amount of stand-up. As always, he did not leave his family aside, boasting that he was the only male “troll” in a family with a wife and two daughters.
Speaking about her daughter Maude’s stint on “Euphoria,” Apatow said, “You know, you want your kids to outdo you, but not so fast. Hopefully she has a weak third season so I can catch up with her. I wish he would jump the shark, but I don’t think he will Noting that he was “a Jewish father” with a wish to be “a young grandfather” pushing for that ‘she’s starting to have kids, he said, “She’s in her twenties, and why not? … She’s like, ‘Dad, I’m playing a 16-year-old high school kid on TV. I can’t have a baby. I I’m like, ‘I saw that show. I don’t think it would be that weird…to have a little creaky baby. Then you could use your baby to play baby. Two salaries.’
Kurstin, a member of the duo l’Oiseau et l’Abeille as well as producer of Adele and, among others, Beck, began his surprise appearance with a very accomplished jazz instrument, a side of him that few have seen in public, despite his propensity to talk about his experience in the genre in conversation. He returned to the stage to help Beck as they performed “Dear Life” from the 2017 album “Colors” produced by Kurstin. “Greg and I wrote this song together, and we didn’t rehearse it, and we played it once,” Beck announced. After a quiet consultation with the pianist-producer: “No, never, never. Let’s see what happens.”
Seeing what was to come was also the mo for Beck’s cover of Tom Waits’ “Time,” which he said he only learned the first verse of, despite his reverence for Waits, which made him led to improvising a second and third verse which included lines like “Well, I just got back from Coachella, I’ve got dust in my throat and that glow stick is starting to fade” and “A disco on Sunset in a boutique hotel with a guest list as long as 405.” “You need to update it a bit, right? There are no more carnivals and invisible brides,” he added, suggesting that he may remember the song more than he was letting on, “and it kinda sucks, but we just have to embrace the time we’re in.”
Billed by Apatow as “my favorite artist in the world”, Wainwright played many of his new songs about aging before being joined by McKean and Guest for the serious old folk of the early 1900s “Baltimore Fire”. A second joint number dates back only to 1972, “Roll Me Over, Jehovah”, by their friend, George Gerdes, a cult artist who had two albums on United Artists in the early 70s before finding more reliable work in as an actor. Noting that Gerdes passed away on New Year’s Eve 2020, McKean said that over the past few years, “we’ve lost a lot of great people. And we picked up a lot of really shitty ones.
Wainwright announced he was going “to take a little walk around the neighborhood” – or, as McKean put it, “a rock ‘n’ roll nap!” — as the two Spinal Tappers took over for “a bit of psychedelia.” Some jokes never get old, as Guest, who tends to be the world’s most trusted comic performer, couldn’t help but burst into a faint smile the first time he added a “shh” as McKean sang the lead. on “Listen to the flower people”.
Wainwright’s return from his brisk walk and/or nap mostly involved new material, but also hinted at a classic when he left room for a request segment of a song. He seemed surprised when a patron of Largo shouted the infamous “Rufus Is a Tit Man” – written for his then-infant son, future non-tit-man Rufus Wainwright – and then played it anyway. “It’s more like pecs,” he explained, updating the family history. “How does it work? There it is,” he smiled, hitting the right chords for the perennial that includes lyrics like, “Suck on mama’s glands, suck on a nipple, sweeter than Ripple wine / You can tell it by the way the boy burps, it must taste good.”
The new ‘Lifetime Achievement’ songs may not go as far into naughty slapstick, but find reasons to smile about mortality and find simpler pleasures – like getting back to mowing the lawn, after the to have avoided since the age of 14 – along the way. “Oh, yes, I laughed and certainly I cried / Many that I loved rose and died / But I’m eternal you might say / I’m immortal, maybe for today’ today,” he sang. “I’ve got pieces of me scattered around the globe / Not much left, I lighten my load / I leave a spoonful here and a particle there…” he performed the new songs, along with a box of CDs in the lobby, “to, uh, boost record sales,” almost like it was a priority.