Friday 15 December 2017

Review: Rufus Wainwright at Vicar Street, Dublin

Rufus Wainwright
Rufus Wainwright
Eamon Sweeney

Eamon Sweeney

The first time Rufus Wainwright graced a Dublin stage, he performed in Whelan's as a backing vocalist for his late mother, Kate McGarrigle, when he was 15.

A quarter of a century and seven studio albums later, the 40-year-old Rufus is headlining his own soirée on the opening night of his European greatest hits tour.

Such occasions offer a rare chance for long-term fans to soak in an artist's best-known and loved tunes, but without being encumbered by a brand new album to be dutifully promoted. In his own inimitable way, Wainwright adds a few alterations of his own to the script.

As usual, he looks magnificent, sporting a sharp jacket and white shirt, shiny blue boot runners, expensively ripped jeans and a brooch that is so shiny it dazzles the retinas of the very back rows. Rufus Wainwright is so dapper he almost makes Morrissey look like Bruce Springsteen.

Even though he starts the show gently on familiar ground as he flits between piano and guitar, Rufus chooses to use his greatest hits showcase to premiere two brand new songs.

Fortunately, they are both fantastic. Wainwright reveals he stole the title 'Chic and Pointless' from the last line of a review that lambasted one of his operas in New York. He caps it off with a priceless theatrical sigh.

Rufus pounds his grand piano melodramatically and announces that he is experiencing a vision. A glitter canon sprays confetti as his sister Lucy walks onstage dressed as Liza Minnelli. The packed auditorium does a double take, as Rufus is a known associate of Judy Garland's famous daughter, even though Minnelli is reportedly not particularly fond of Wainwright's versions of her late mother's songs.

It adds a nice personal touch when Rufus prefaces 'I Don't Know What It Is' by declaring that it is his own favourite song from his quite considerable back catalogue.

Wainwright crams the classics into the closing stages of his set, performing back-to-back versions of 'Dinner at Eight', 'Poses' 'Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk' and a stirring rendition of Leonard Cohen's 'Hallejujah' with Lucy. He deservedly receives an enthusiastic standing ovation for his troubles.

Elton John has called Wainwright the greatest living songwriter on planet earth. Michael Stipe claims he stands shoulder to shoulder alongside true greats such as Nina Simone. While his fame and profile may not quite match such exalted comparisons, Rufus Wainwright is one of music's most unique talents. We're blessed to have him around.

Irish Independent

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