Thursday, April 14, 2005

Rufus Wainwright, Nottingham Royal Concert Hall, 13/04/05



"This next song," says Wainwright, furrowing his brows in an attempt to keep a straight face, "is a hit". The dead pan expression quickly turns into a little giggle and trademark flick of the hair. The song in question, 'The One You Love' is certainly the most radio-friendly track on Want Two, and it did get a few plays on radio, but Rufus isn't huge; not just yet anyhow, and if I'm representative of his following, the fans don't want him to get huge. This genius songwriter, singer, and general entertainer is too good to be shared. If this gig proved anything, however, it was that you don't have to be on CDUK to be a real star. Because that's undoubtedly what he is - he had the audience of sensitive indie-types eating out of hands.

Let's start with what's really important - the music. Rufus is quite simply a stunning songwriter. He knows when to be grandiose, when to be understated, where to pitch songs that lie in the many shades of grey between the two. It is to his absolute credit that the quieter and more reflective songs are just as involving as the Broadway glamour of '14th Street', for example. Indeed, many of the highlights for me personally came when Wainwright was left on stage with only his piano for company - 'The Art Teacher' is a heartbreakingly simple song about childhood loves which had the audience transfixed, and the track which deals with his relationship with his father, 'Dinner At Eight' is deeply moving. Of course, the big numbers play equally well - 'I Don't Know What It Is' and 'Beautiful Child' (about a "happy apocolypse") evoke whoops and cheers normally reserved for Earl's Court. The set list may not have been to everyone's taste, packed as it was with tracks from his latest album Want Two, but for me it was perfect. It showcased what an utterly wonderful lp his newest is, while still fitting in pretty much every other song a fan could have wished to hear, from 'I Don't Know What It Is', to 'Across the Universe', to 'Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk' - played despite being resquested in a particularly drunken and obnoxious fashion earlier - "I've payed good money for this! Play Cigarettes and Alcohol!' The audience joins Rufus in a collective shake of the head.

If exquiste songwriting is not enough for you, however, Rufus has a fabulous stage presence. He's laugh-out-loud funny, cheekily telling the audience during the encore that his backing singers had spotted some cute guys in the front row. "And I agreed," he smiles, "There's some real Robin Hoods out there!" 500 female faces drop - "and some Maid Marians" he concedes with a sigh. I'm not suggesting all of the comments were off the cuff, but when your host is this entertaining, who cares? He's not afraid to be controversial, either, introducing 'Gay Messiah' by saying that he'd better play it quickly whilst there's no Pope...

The zenith of Rufus-as-showman, however comes in the encore. Rufus is jigging along nicely to 'Old Whore's Diet' when he reaches down and takes off his boots. Then his jacket. Then his shirt. Then his... is that a thong? Wait a minute, they're all doing it! With the crowd barely noticing the transformation, suddenly the whole band is in bras and fishnets, and pirate costumes. While Rufus slips into some shiny red stillettos, a red-wigged roadie bestows upon him fairy wings and a sash. He is Rufus Wainwright no more - he's Miss Nottingham! Of course! Now, anything goes, glo-sticks are waved and Miss Nottingham, apparantly having as a good a time as the audience screams "I'm gonna die!" when he realises that the sparklers he's holding are burning worryingly low... Then, the mania passes as quickly as it had arrived. Miss Nottingham takes off his wings, wraps a bathrobe around himself and sits down to play another good ten minutes.

"I aim to please" he says coyly, flicking back his floppy fringe one last time. He has certainly succeded.

http://www.rufuswainwright.com/

5 comments:

KJC said...

Great review. Was there too on Wednesday, and loved every second. The Evening Post said it was the best ovation since Brian Wilson two years ago - can testify to that cos I was there too

AnnaWaits said...

Thank you, KJC, glad you had as good a time as me! Wow, you saw Brian Wilson? Would have loved to have been there!

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

Some girl who walked down the stairs in front of me grabbed a set list from the stairs from tier one. Don't suppose there is any way to bulletin a call for the full list? I couldn't scribble frantically enough!

Great review btw.

KJC said...

Just got back for a look at this! Yes, Brian Wilson! After seeing him on that televised show for the queen, was a bit worried, but needn't have been. This guy has a complete idea in his head of how everything should sound; and so have I .... being very old I can carry Pet Sounds around in my head, and it was all perfect. Every song got a standing ovation from a crowd clearly as besotted as I am! And England had just beaten Argentina. Heaven. But Rufus comes close.

AnnaWaits said...

Sounds like a wonderful gig - I'd love to see him live sometime. Thanks for reading!