11th December 2012
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 âJerichoâ and sultry âRespectable Diveâ. 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 âSaratoga Summer Songâ and âI Donât Knowâ, whilst other back-up singer Cherise Blackman joins Rufus in a great version of ‘One Man Guy’ by Rufusâs old man, Loudon. As if that wasnât enough, Adam Cohen (the earlier support act) plays keyboards in a gaudy version of dad Leonardâs âEverybody Knowsâ. Rufus introduces him as âmy brotherâ, and they are indeed linked as Rufus has a daughter, Viva with Adamâs sister Lorca. Indeed, the emotional core of âOut of the Gameâ, and set highlight Â âMontaukâ 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 âstyle over substanceâ merchant, being both a great singer, (although a bit âthroatyâ tonight, itâs been a long tour after all) writer and pianist. This is most obviously shown on one of his greatest songs: âThe Art Teacherâ. Other than Randy Newman itâs hard to think of anyone else who writes like this, seek it out if you havenât heard.
All too soon, weâre into the encore. Having seen him a few times, weâre used to a bit of playfulness and dressing up, he did âdo Judyâ in full drag a few years back after all, but nothing can prepare us for what happens next. The band return along with âCupidâ (loincloth, bow and arrow intact) and begin playing the classic âOld Whoreâs Dietâ, inviting us to âa bacchanalian orgyâ and imploring us to summon âApollo Rufusâ 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 âGay Messiahâ. My wife summed it up best: âI have no idea whatâs going onâ but said with a big smile.
Funny, charming, beguiling, moving, and sometimes baffling, thatâs Rufus.