This was my fifth time of seeing Mr Wainwright and the joy never lessens. He's still the most charismatic performer I've ever seen, or feel I'm ever likely to see, still funny, still self-absorbed.
After being slightly disappointed by Release The Stars on first listen, the fabulous tunes on that album quickly revealed themselves, and so it was not too much of a problem that 90% of the first half of this marathon 2-and-a-half hour set was made up of songs from that latest album. As so often happens, songs you might have overlooked on disc are suddenly more easily understood when heard live - Sanssouci, and Slideshow especially had a bigger impact on me than they've ever had on my mp3 player. Do I Disappoint You (which I adore) was, apparently, written for a now-abandoned opera, and live it's easy to see how it would fit into that setting. It all bodes well for the opera that Rufus is now working on...
Of course, it's always great to hear a few older tracks, as well. 14th Street, I Dont Know What It Is and The Art Teacher were all present and correct, but it's the random ones - like Ben Folds playing Kate on the last tour - that are often the most special. The Consort was beautiful played live, but it was a particular joy to hear Danny Boy, from the first album. Just reminds you that Rufus has been uber-talented for a sickeningly long time...
The band, as usual, were just as important as Rufus himself - tight, having fun and all multi-talented. I've got to say, though, that losing the female backing singers is a shame. Joan Wasser and sister Martha are, of course, far too big in their own right now to tour with Rufus, but they really brought something special to the whole sound which is now lacking. The guys do well, but the girls' parts - so integral so songs like I Don't Know What It Is especially - just aren't quite the same.
And so to the finale (look away now if you're going to see him on this tour). You might think that singing Judy Garland tracks such as A Foggy Day In London Town in leiderhosen would negate the requirement of a spectacular finale, but what has Rufus to do with 'requirement'? (The Garland songs are stunning, by the way - is there a man on this planet with a voice quite so distinctive *and* versatile?) After the brilliant fairy wings and thong combination, and the astonishing Gay Messiah ending from the last tour, this is almost restrained, but fun nonetheless: in black tights, stilettos, a fitted dinner jacket, trilby and bright red lipstick, Rufus transforms himself into classic Judy. Miming shamelessly, he and the band do a Caberet-esque dance routine, before finally settling into a four-guitar version of Gay Messiah. As always with Rufus, you get a ridiculous amount of bang for your buck.
Rufus and the band had been to Chatsworth House during the day - which he persisted in calling a 'palace' - a palace the likes of which he clearly thinks he should be living in.
In terms of audiences, Sheffield 'win'. Today's Cambridge - "oh you'll definitely beat Cambridge", he says.