One of the widely regarded hallmarks of great art is that it be honest and authentic, a true expression of the artist’s unique vision. The best art probes, focuses, explores, suggests, reveals. Sometimes that exploration and self-revelation plunges the artist too near scalding depths of pain and suffering, and the laying bare becomes too intense. The solace of drink, drugs, and the ultimate self-destructive behavior of suicide may then beckon. (Van Gogh, Rothko, Hemingway, Plath, Woolf, Sexton, Morrison, Joplin, Cobain, Robin Williams; it’s a long casualty list.)
Among contemporary artists in whatever genre, probably none explore their demons with quite the unflinching, ruthless honesty of singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III. (Those roman numerals loom large in his history; more on that below.)
From down here in the audience, it doesn’t look easy being Wainwright, whom I saw from two rows back...