Rufus duffs hoof us!
Rufus duffs hoof us!
Rufus duffs hoof us!
Rufus dufus hoof us!

Rufus Wainwright

Manchester Apollo

11th December 2012

Live Review

 

There aren’t many gigs that climax with a foam Sandwich singing about a ‘gay messiah’, but then there aren’t many artists like Rufus Wainwright.

Touring latest album ‘Out of the Game’, And with a classy, funky band behind him, Rufus initially appears as a conventional (ish) frontman, dressed head to toe in black leather Gaultier, dancing sans guitar, and wearing shades. This broadly fits with the vibe of the latest record, which largely drops the extravagant orchestration of past albums for a slicker 70’s Elton John/Neil Young AOR sheen, especially on the wonderful ‘Jericho’ and sultry ‘Respectable Dive’. Rufus fits well in this era of often dark, confessional songs, for which the lyrics of oldie ‘Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk’ are a great reminder.

Long-term fans of Rufus know that he’s always generous when having family and friends accompanying him, and tonight is no exception. The excellent Teddy Thompson and back-up singer Krystle Warren each get a solo spot performing lovely versions of Kate McGarrigle (Rufus’s late mum) songs ‘Saratoga Summer Song’ and ‘I Don’t Know’, whilst other back-up singer Cherise Blackman joins Rufus in a great version of ‘One Man Guy’ by Rufus’s old man, Loudon. As if that wasn’t enough, Adam Cohen (the earlier support act) plays keyboards in a gaudy version of dad Leonard’s ‘Everybody Knows’. Rufus introduces him as ‘my brother’, and they are indeed linked as Rufus has a daughter, Viva with Adam’s sister Lorca. Indeed, the emotional core of ‘Out of the Game’, and set highlight  ‘Montauk’ is a florid and moving tribute to both his child and late mother.

Admittedly, this may all sound somewhat frivolous and revue like, but the trick with Rufus is that despite the nepotism, he surrounds himself with proper time-served musicians and, despite his endearingly self-depreciating stage patter, he himself is no ‘style over substance’ merchant, being both a great singer, (although a bit ‘throaty’ tonight, it’s been a long tour after all) writer and pianist. This is most obviously shown on one of his greatest songs: ‘The Art Teacher’. Other than Randy Newman it’s hard to think of anyone else who writes like this, seek it out if you haven’t heard.

All too soon, we’re into the encore. Having seen him a few times, we’re used to a bit of playfulness and dressing up, he did ‘do Judy’ in full drag a few years back after all, but nothing can prepare us for what happens next. The band return along with ‘Cupid’ (loincloth, bow and arrow intact) and begin playing the classic ‘Old Whore’s Diet’, inviting us to ‘a bacchanalian orgy’ and imploring us to summon ‘Apollo Rufus’ back to earth. Apollo / Rufus duly returns in wig and toga, inviting audience members (and the aforementioned sandwich) on the stage for the finale of ‘Gay Messiah’. My wife summed it up best: ‘I have no idea what’s going on’ but said with a big smile.

Funny, charming, beguiling, moving, and sometimes baffling, that’s Rufus.

 

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