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- Rufus Wainwright »
There are few gigs in this world that leave you feeling refreshed and altogether lighter of being, yet somehow also pondering the benefits a nice wine rack might bring to your happy home, but Rufus Wainwright is one of them. Tonight’s gig is so cosily middle class you begin to wonder if he’s Elton John in deadpan disguise, and certainly his witheringly honest lyrics are about all that saved his last record from an oblivion of MOR bombast.
It’s as if Wainwright isn’t quite sure which tradition he belongs to; exuberant showbiz luvvie cracking dubious double entendres ("Happy Halowe’en... and Guy Fuck’s Day!"), or the affecting, sardonic singer-songwriter of yore. Topping the list of absurdities on a night of high camp are a song dedicated to The Killers’ Brandon Flowers, numerous costume changes culminating in a full-drag, jazz hands rendition of ‘Get Happy’, and an amusing spiel about Frederick The Great’s unrequited love for the philosopher Voltaire.
But it’s alone at a piano stool that Wainwright’s talents are thrown into sharpest relief, allowing his remarkable voice to really shine; a lugubrious, self-possessed drawl which he’s seemingly able summon without moving his lips. He writes incredibly well for the piano, as masterful renditions of two of his most incisive melodies, ‘Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk’ and ‘Poses’, attest. Too often the big-band setting takes the edges off the compositions, their flightier inclinations suffocated by grandiose arrangements or tempered by pedestrian rhythms, as with recent single ‘Rules And Regulations’.
And while it seems unfair to chastise Wainwright for relying too heavily on carefully-constructed artifice when it was always his impeccable songcraft and keenly-observed wit that lifted him above the realms of run-of-the-mill introspection, it’d be a shame to see his penchant for mannered excess obscure his great talents as a songwriter. Great night, then; shame about the poses.
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