Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
Loudon Wainwright is the Steve Martin of folkie music. Or the Mel Brooks. Or the National Lampoon.
That is, he is a parodist, not a satirist. He is about as subtle as a pie-in-the-face routine, but usually deft and once in a while devastating.
Wainwright, who opened a four-night booking at the Cellar Door Thursday night, has the rubber face of the classic slapstick comedian. His tongue lolls out, his eyes scrunch closed, his shoulders hunch, he hops on one leg. He is in an agony of humor, but there is no startling insight. He may be Chevy Chase, but he isn't Charlie Chaplin.
Still, there is serendipity in simplicity. It's a pleasure to hear someone snoof such disparate cultural phenomena as Bob Dylan, Erica Jong and "Saturday Night Live" at the same time. Wainwright also commands an exceedingly faithful audience, one which sings along without even being told the words.
Wainwright begins his set as a solo, which makes his parodies awkwardly obvious. Toward the end he brings in Slow Train, his back-up band and opening act. They add both energy and camouflage to what can be wit indeed. Wainwright would do well to bring them on a little earlier, before the novelty wears off.