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Loudon Wainwright at Largo at the Coronet

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The folksy, Grammy-winning musician sings about optimism in the face of bad times.

Loudon Wainwright III was fighting a losing battle with his guitar Tuesday night at Largo at the Coronet: He wanted it to stay in tune, the guitar didn't. So roughly an hour into his show the L.A.-based folkie hatched the kind of plan that comes naturally to someone with Wainwright's experience. “I'm gonna do a blues now," he announced. “That way it don't matter."

That his plan worked probably says more about the ingenuity of Wainwright's lyrics than it does about his fiery juke-joint chops; the blues was about Paul Krugman and contained enough jokes to fill one of the Nobel Prize-winning economist's columns.

Yet even though he succeeded in distracting the audience from his tuning issues, Wainwright still couldn't resist making some minor mid-song adjustments to his instrument -- a perfect illustration of the unfailing attention to detail that's made Wainwright one of his generation's most well-regarded songwriters.

Tuesday's concert, the first stop on a brief California solo tour, came shortly after Wainwright received his first Grammy, for last year's “High Wide and Handsome: The Charlie Poole Project," on which Wainwright pays tribute to the obscure 1920s banjo player. An admitted cynic who leavens his misanthropy with disarming sensitivity, Wainwright didn't pretend that the Grammy win victory lacked personal or professional meaning; he opened with “The Grammy Song," a smirking plea for acknowledgment from his 1983 album “Fame and Wealth."

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