Rufus Wainwright
Iveagh Gardens, Dublin
18 July 2012

Rufus Wainwright enthralls the Dublin crowd with a spell-binding set dipping into his back catalogue, covering his parent’s songs and convincing the audience of his versatility with numbers from his Mark Ronson-produced 2012 album Out of the Game.

Iveagh Gardens is a perfect venue, just hidden off Dublin’s busy Harcourt Street, you quickly forget that you’re actually in the city centre. It’s a welcome alternative to the recent trek out to Phoenix Park.

It is also easily accessed, and the journey from the entrance to the front of the stage takes less than two minutes to navigate.

It’s just the right setting for a chilled out summer evening, and the atmosphere is relaxed, and appreciable.

Rufus makes his entrance, dressed in a flamboyant colourful jacket, he’s in fantastic form.

The beautiful Candles written in tribute to his mother is the first of several songs that celebrate her life. He also later pays tribute to the recently departed Levon Helm, who played on The One I Love from fourth album Want Two.

His close relationship to his mother folk singer Kate Mcgarrigle has been as well documented as his problematic one with his father. He gives us a gorgeous rendition of Kate’s I Don’t Know, and a version of his father’s One Man Guy, which he recorded for sophomore release Poses.

April Fools from the Van Dyke Park’s produced debut sounds incredible, and prompts swaying, and twirling from the crowd. Rufus moves with ease from dancing up in front of the band to sitting back in front of the piano for some quieter numbers. His voice is exceptional, the performance is engaging, and never loses momentum.

For an outdoor concert, it feels very intimate. He’s generous towards the band too, allowing them to a chance to impress in their own right, Rufus is obviously the star, but the band are more than his backup band, there a well-oiled, solid unit.

He chooses liberally from his repertoire, but plays several tracks from newest album Out of the Game. The aforementioned Candles, Rashida, Jericho, Barbara and the title track, which is precluded with a passionate plea to continue to buy music. If we don’t, then he can’t make albums, it’s a straight forward request, and Rufus not making albums is something no one in this crowd wants to see happen. Out of the Game sounds epic, and I’m sure it can be heard across the city.

When Rufus announced plans to have Mark Ronson produce his new album, there was mild panic among some fans. It’s overtly pop, and a very dancey affair, but if we have learnt anything over the last fourteen years, it’s that Rufus knows best. The album has made most half year “best of” lists, including Rolling Stone’s.

Later he makes another plea, this time it’s for us to dance, and most us have been all evening. He’s invitation is his way of introducing the brilliant Bitter Tears, also taken from the new album.

He beckons to the crowd by way of energetic dancing and extravagant hand gestures and those who haven’t been moving yet, although in the minority, are quick to join the rest of us. The sun’s coming down, and the excellent stage lighting is just another factor, in what has had all the ingredients for an immaculate evening. Want One’s 14th Street is absolutely sublime, and for me, the highlight. We are left enthralled.

Having seen him play theatres, marquees and music festivals, this has been by far my favourite setting, The smiles on people’s faces as we file back into the street says it all. The venue and concert combine to make this an extremely memorable and brilliant evening.

Rufus blends grandiose numbers, with quieter, more heartfelt ones seamlessly. He’s completely energetic, and incredibly engaging. He has the audience in the palm of his hands for the entire duration.

The set up in the venue is an example of how to run a concert, and if people in Dublin have been concerned about the future of events after recent happenings, it confirms what works. Treat punters with respect, and they behave respectfully.

Rufus returns to Ireland in November, and even though Belfast is a little further away than Iveagh Gardens, it won’t be missed.

All words by Ray Burke. You can read more from Ray on LTW here.

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