Loudon Wainwright, Beck, Spinal Tap Leads Join Judd Apatow Benefit

It wasn’t quite a proper Spinal Tap reunion, but there was some implicit history happening Tuesday night at Largo in Los Angeles as Michael McKean and Christopher Guest joined Loudon Wainwright III, the headliner for the latest in a series of Judd Apatow-hosted “Juddapalooza” benefit concerts at Largo. Besides going back together about five and a half decades as friends on the musical-comedy scene, Wainwright, as hardcore fans will know, was seen as a member of Spinal Tap in a cameo in the very first filmed comedy sketch featuring the faux group in the late ’70s.

Tuesday’s Largo show featured a healthy intermingling of Wainwright performing songs from his new album, “Lifetime Achievement,” and Guest and McKean bringing back some of the very earliest Spinal Tap “hits,” along with some folk-scene collaborations. Also on tap as unadvertised guests: Beck, who sang a few of his own songs and Neil Young’s “Old Man” along with assisting others in the hootenanny, and top producer Greg Kurstin, who proved game for completely unrehearsed piano contributions and even solos over the course of the two hours-plus.

“We have come here from the 1960s,” said McKean. “Or as we call them, the 19-fucking-60s.” Added Wainwright, “Best decade!,” as Guest murmured a greatest-generation joke. The chatter could have referred to the material Guest and McKean played as a duo, which consisted of the faux-’60s songs from Spinal Tap, in the fictional universe where the group toyed with skiffle and hippie styles before 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 referenced how long the trio have been friends, with Guest noting that he’d been playing with McKean since 1967 and met Wainwright not long after that.

The passage of time was a running theme throughout many of Wainwright’s newly minted songs, too, which mix whimsy with winsomeness as they examine the state of his art and heart at 76. That the subject of aging would hardly be avoided was evident from the moment the acclaimed singer-songwriter first came on stage and realized that, roadie-less, he would have to stoop to pick up the cord to plug into his guitar. “Every time I have to get down and pick something up,” he said, “whether it’s a cord or a guitar pick, there’s this moment now where I say, ‘Do I really need this?’”

Apatow kicked off the night — a benefit for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, like shows earlier in the week that featured Adam Sandler and others — with a healthy amount of stand-up. As ever, he did not leave family out of it, riffing on being the sole male “troll” of a family with a wife and two daughters.

Talking about his daughter Maude’s stint on “Euphoria,” Apatow said, “You know, you want your kids to surpass you, but not that fast. I’m hoping she has a weak third season so I can catch up. I’d like it to jump the shark, but I don’t think it will.” Noting that he was being “a Jewish dad” with a wish to be “a young grandpa” in pushing for her to start having children, he said, “She’s in her twenties, and why not? … She’s like, ‘Dad, I play a 16-year-old high school student on television. I can’t have a baby.’ I’m like, ‘I’ve seen that show. I don’t think it’d be that weird … to have a little crack baby. Then you could use your baby, to play the baby. Two salaries.’”

largo benefit

Michael McKean, Judd Apatow, Loudon Wainwright III and Christopher Guest backstage at Largo (Photo: Tyler Ross)

Tyler Ross

Kurstin, a member of the duo the Bird and the Bee as well as producer for Adele and, among others, Beck, kicked off his surprise appearance with a very accomplished jazz instrumental, a side of him few have seen in public, despite his proclivity for talking about his background in the genre in conversation. He returned to the stage to help out Beck as they performed “Dear Life” from 2017’s Kurstin-produced “Colors” album. “Greg and I wrote this song together, and we haven’t rehearsed it, and we’ve played this once,” Beck announced. After a quiet consultation with the pianist-producer: “No, never, never. Let’s see what happens.”

Seeing what would happen was also the m.o. for Beck’s cover of Tom Waits’ “Time,” which he said he’d only learned the first verse of, despite his Waits veneration, leading him to improvise a second and third verse that included lines like “Well, I just got back from Coachella, I’ve got dust in my throat and this glowstick is starting to fade” and “A nightclub on Sunset at a boutique hotel with a guest list as long as the 405.” “You have to update it a little bit, right? There’s no more carnivals and invisible fiancees,” he added, suggesting maybe he recalls more of the song than he claimed, “and it kind of sucks, but we just have to embrace the time we’re in.”

Introduced by Apatow as “my favorite artist in the world,” Wainwright played several of his new songs about getting older before being joined by McKean and Guest for the early-1900s serious folk oldie “Baltimore Fire.” A second joint number dated 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 as an actor. Noting that Gerdes has died on New Year’s Eve 2020, McKean said that in the past few years, “we’ve lost a lot of terrific people. And we’ve picked up a lot of really shitty ones.”

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 2: Los Angeles Kings Hockeywood event at Crypto.com Arena on October 8, 2022 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Tyler Ross/NHLI via Getty Images)

(Photo by Tyler Ross)

Tyler Ross

Wainwright announced that he was “gonna take a little walk around the block” — or, as McKean declared, “rock ‘n’ roll nap!” — as the two Spinal Tappers took over for “a little bit of psychedelia.” Some jokes never get old, as Guest, who tends to be the most reliably poker-faced comic performer in the world, couldn’t help but break out into a slight smile the first time he added a “shhhh” while McKean sang the lead on “Listen to the Flower People.”

Wainwright’s return from his brisk stroll and/or siesta mostly involved new material but also brought up a classic when he allowed room for a one-song requests segment. He seemed startled when a Largo patron shouted out the infamous “Rufus Is a Tit Man” — written for his then-infant son, future non-tit-man Rufus Wainwright — then played it anyway. “It’s more like pecs,” he explained, bringing the family history up to date. “How does it go? There it is,” he smiled, finding the correct chords for the perennial that includes lyrics like “Sucking on his mama’s glands, sucking on a nipple, sweeter than the Ripple wine / You can tell by the way the boy burps, it’s gotta taste fine.”

The new songs from “Lifetime Achievement” may not go quite so far toward naughty slapstick but do find reasons to smile about mortality and finding simpler pleasures — like taking up lawnmowing again, after avoiding it since age 14 — along the way. “Oh, yes, I laughed and certainly I have cried / Quite a few that I have loved have up and died / But I’m eternal you could say / I’m immortal, maybe for today,” he sang. “I’ve got pieces of me strewn around the globe / There’s not much left, I’m lightening up my load / I leave a dollop here and a particle there…” The Largo crowd was happy for whatever stray molecules he could shed as he performed the new songs, with a box of CDs in the lobby, “to, ah, stimulate record sales,” almost as if that were a priority.

You May Also Like

‘Wolf Pack’ LGBTQ Characters Will Have Explicit Romances

The horror series Wolf Pack will deal with teenagers coping with their…

Nick Viall and Natalie Joy Are Engaged After Over 2 Years Together

The Bachelor fans have a lot to celebrate as Nick Viall, a…

Anthony Bourdain Inspired 1 of the Funniest Scenes in ‘Chef’

Anthony Bourdain‘s legacy centered around cooking on and off television. He went…

Gemma Atkinson and Gorka Marquez spark rumours they have got MARRIED

Gemma Atkinson and Gorka Marquez have sparked rumours they have secretly got…

Make wellness a priority at home with these easy hacks

During cold and flu season, there’s no better medicine than a little…

Olivia Wilde and Ex Jason Sudeikis Hug It Out Months After Nanny Drama

Olivia Wilde and Jason Sudeikis appear to be on good terms. The…

Blake Defends Jett Amid Questions About His Sexuality

The couple behind Lynn Ban Jewelry, Lynn Ban and her husband Jett…

Michael Strahan asks fans if they’re ‘looking to have some fun?’ as he promotes career outside of GMA

GOOD Morning America star Michael Strahan has promoted a new career outside…