- Live Review
- 11 Jul 22
"A singer-songwriter at a piano is sometimes regarded as a limited milieu. Wainwright stretched it into glorious shapes..."
Rufus Wainwright has been keeping busy in the two-and-a-half years since he brought his semi-regular family Christmas revue to the National Concert Hall. He’s written his third opera, put out a podcast series about his early career and released his ninth studio album, Unfollow The Rules. Like the rest of us he’s also lived through a once-in-a-century public health emergency.
With all of that in the rear-view mirror it was not entirely surprising he should mark his return to Ireland with an old-fashioned, back-to-basics show. This was Wainwright in troubadour mode, bounding briskly across the arc of his career.
He wore glittering ruby slippers as an homage to the Wizard of Oz and Judy Garland (he has just re-recorded his iconic Rufus Does Judy tribute to Garland and performed a hauntingly a cappella ‘Over The Rainbow’ on the night). An Oz-like sparkle also infused Wainwright’s stage persona, which was that of a natural-born chatterer. But that showman flourish sat alongside songs of devastating heartache and bottomless melancholy. He was straight into those darker hits as he kicked off with the gripping, ominous ‘Grey Gardens’ and the keening ‘Vibrate’, the latter from his 2004 masterpiece Want One.
A singer-songwriter at a piano is sometimes regarded as a limited milieu. Wainwright stretched it into glorious shapes. ‘Greek Song’ was a road movie full of grit and wonder (“One way is Rome and the other way is Mecca / on either side on either side / of our motorbike”). And ‘The Art Teacher’ blended Philip Glass minimalism with the tale of a Hillary Clinton go-getter in her a-type pants suit, haunted by a schoolgirl crush.
The hits were by way of buttering up the audience for forays into his operas: there were excerpts from Prima Donna and Hadrian, soon to be staged in Madrid, with Wainwright’s husband Jörn Weisbrodt directing.
And there was a sweet valentine to his 11-year-old daughter Viva in the form of ‘My Little You’. Hardest-hitting of all, perhaps, was ‘Gay Messiah’, with the Montreal-born, LA-based Wainwright strumming an acoustic guitar and singing about the quest for freedom and equality in 21st century America. Seventeen years since he wrote it, that message landed more urgently than ever.
- Live Review
- 09 Aug 22