Entertainment Music

Monday 23 October 2017

Rock

Ed Power

Ed Power

Iveagh Gardens, Dublin

As the ruby red, rhinestone-adorned dinner jacket he sports tonight attests, Rufus Wainwright is not one for wistful understatement. He typically loads his songs with several kitchen sinks worth of strings, brass and piano.

The results invariably feel like the sonic equivalent of a giant, wobbling wedding cake: the music dances on the tastebuds but you fear the whole thing will come crashing down in a great marzipan mess at any moment.

He's long enjoyed a cult following, to say nothing of the love of celebrities as diverse as Elton John, Scarlett Johansson and Helena Bonham Carter.

However, all the adoration -- plus the rabid cheerleading of critics -- hasn't quite spring-boarded him to the mainstream and, despite its flashes of brilliance, new album Out of the Game has failed to live up to commercial expectations.

Wainwright is pretty frank about the record's underperformance, urging those who have not yet purchased it get a move on. "Otherwise, I won't be able to go on touring as I have," he says. "It might be the last time you see me."

There's a distinct whiff of hyperbole, but if a financially challenged Wainwright is genuinely saying goodbye, he is determined to depart in style, with a heady, impassioned show that chimes with the bucolic ambience of the capital's most picturesque green space.

He does, it is true, start unevenly, trudging through several lesser tracks from Out of the Game. More indulgent still is a segue into material by his parents, the late folk singer Kate McGarrigle and sardonic troubadour Loudon Wainwright III. With his mother having passed just two years ago, perhaps he feels obligated to publicly honour her memory.

Whatever the motivation, this part of the evening drags; down the back it's hard to appreciate the subtleties over the sound of all the wine-chugging thirty-somethings catching up with one another.

But Wainwright is soon inducing goose-bumps as he slips into Out of the Game's breezy title tune -- a '70s tinged paean to the pleasures of slowing down as you age -- and a charging, horn-soaked 'Jericho'. The biggest surprise is 'Bitter Tears', a synth-soaked disco stomper that has Wainwright dancing like it's 1979.

However, the real swooning is saved for the encore one-two of dulcet dirge 'Dinner At Eight' and a gorgeous 'Poses'.

Should money woes truly bring the curtains down on Wainwright's touring -- and you wonder how staying off the road is going to improve matters -- here, at least, is a send-off to remember.

Irish Independent

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