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Revealing evening, Rufus . . . but next time bring a band


PROLIFIC: Rufus Wainwright discusses  the various pitfalls of  his career. Photo: PA

PROLIFIC: Rufus Wainwright discusses the various pitfalls of his career. Photo: PA

PROLIFIC: Rufus Wainwright discusses the various pitfalls of his career. Photo: PA

RUFUS Wainwright released a 'best of' compilation this week. "Soon to be my greatest hits," says the American-Canadian from behind his grand piano. At least he knows the difference. Of course he would – this is Rufus Wainwright we're dealing with.

Self-deprecation comes naturally, not least when discussing the various pitfalls of his career. Namely, a struggle to break through to the other side.

Tonight is supposed to be about looking back, but the chap is keen to road-test "future commercial failures", too. On Chic and Pointless, Rufus has a go at a New York Times scribe who savaged his debut opera, Prima Donna. Later, his half-sister Lucy Wainwright Roche pretends to be Liza Minnelli for a playful rendition of Me and Liza.

Apparently, Ms Minnelli wasn't too happy about Rufus' 2006 tribute concert to her mother, Judy Garland.

So, yeah, it is sort of a response to that whole kerfuffle. Is the man growing bitter in his old age? Hardly. He is only 40, after all.

The son of Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III, Rufus is nothing if not prolific, with a vibrant personality to boot. But he hasn't always made things easy for himself.

Here we have an artist with a flair for the dramatic, who writes and arranges material that only he can sing. Smart yet stubborn, he almost always puts himself first – the way it should be, perhaps.


Yet, sometimes, it feels as though he's running in circles, stuck on an endless loop of humdrum operatic pop sequences. Occasionally, he strikes gold (the poignant Candles sounds exquisite this evening). It's a good thing he's funny, and that his voice – expressive and divine – is still in good nick.

It's the first night of the tour, and it shows. More 'an evening with' than a full-on concert, we're in lounge act territory here. Actually, it kind of feels like a rehearsal, and it is a tad untidy and careless in places.

Adjustments will be made, he says. Might I suggest ditching the acoustic guitar? It does nothing for the likes of Out of the Game and Jericho – a pair of songs that leave him gasping for breath.

Far more effective is a touching tribute to his daughter (the exquisite Montauk) followed up with a transcendent cover of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.

Not a bad offering, then. But next time, bring a band. HHHII