Thursday, October 11, 2007
Rufus Wainwright 10/10/07
When I was 14, Kate & Anna McGarrigle were due to play a small show in Dublin, accompanied by Kate’s son Rufus. I was all set to go, but the date coincided with my school’s night-time award ceremony, to which I had been invited. Looking back on it, I probably wouldn’t have been let into the venue anyway, but at the time I sat and fumed throughout the entire ceremony. Finally, almost four years later, I get another chance to see Rufus live. My, it was worth the wait.
Words like “spectacular” and “experience” are carelessly thrown around as regards concert reviews, but Rufus Wainwright justifies them. His stage act is a carefully honed performance, one moment crooning love-lorn piano ballads with the audience in the palm of his hand, the next strutting across the stage in a pair of Lederhosen. The real magic comes when a crack appears in the show, as it did last night during Cigarettes & Chocolate Milk. Half-way through, he forgets to change chords on the piano and stares blankly at his hands, the audience giggling. “Guess I’ll start that again,” he grins. “I was getting cocky”. The song begins again and he plays it through perfectly, elicting whoops from the crowd. It’s a funny little incident, and the night is filled with these kinds of moments, intimate, amusing, human slip-ups, banter and jokes.
Vicar Street is perfectly suited to an act like Rufus, small enough to ensure a perfect view of th stage from any location. He seems to like it too. “I played here when it first opened,” he informs us, squinting out into the dark. “It was smaller then, right? They made it bigger… cause I’m playing.” He’s chatty, milking the crowd for all it’s worth. Unlike many acts who play Dublin, he actually knows Ireland (the McGarrigle side is originally from NI, I believe) and there is none of the customary “Oh, I’m so glad to be here, I always wanted to visit Ireland, I hear it’s such a lovely country” schtick that we’re often subjected to. Instead, a haunting Machusla performed sans microphone, standing alone in a single spotlight in the style of Irish opera singer John McCormac.
The setlist is a pleasing mixture of old and new, to my immense relief. I’m not the greatest fan of “Release the Stars” but the songs translate well in the live setting and the employment of huge disco balls add to the effect. Highlights of the first act include a glitterring Tulsa and a beautiful rendition of The Art Teacher. Every time the band left the stage leaving him on stage by himself I muttered a silent prayer for Poses, yet when the interval came I was still Poses-less. The second half brought a costume change, whilst before there was a striped suit laden with brooches, now we were treated to the infamous Lederhosen. His third clothing choice is a fluffy white bathrobe, when he triumphantly returns to the stage for an extended encore. This was by far my favourite part of the night - you can probably guess why, as he sat at the piano and began those first few notes…
Hearing Poses live was probably one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at a concert. It was up there with Radiohead’s How To Dissapear Completely and Joanna Newsom’s Comia. Poses is from his best (in my opinion) album, and it was the first song of his that I ever fell in love with. If he hadn’t played it, I would have gone away enthralled anyway, but with a teeny touch of disapointment lodged in my brain. As it was, I was walking on air. It was transcendent:
“Now I’m drunk and wearing flip-flops on fifth avenue…”
Everything about that line does it for me. Has their ever been a single lyric that so perfectly summed up it’s singer? The phrasing, setting, melody, flamboyance and subtle melancholy are all pure Rufus. It was the highlight of the week.
I didn’t think anything could top that - and truth be told, nothing really did - but he certainly tried his very best to win me over again. The next two songs were also his last, a drag version of Judy Garland’s Get Happy and a hushed, reverent Gay Messiah. This holy trinity of songs couldn’t have been better chosen - the crowd went bezerk.
He’s currently playing a second date in Dublin. Right now he’s probably telling a cheeky anecdote or making the audience cry. I’d sell a limb to be there…