Monday, October 15, 2012
Concert review: Rufus Wainwright gives boggling encore after Dallas show
The middle-aged crowd got more than they expected from the powerhouse vocalist.
DALLAS Fresh off the heels of his Austin City Limits performance on Saturday, Rufus Wainwright set up shop at the Meyerson Symphony Center for a Sunday night of piano ballads, head-swaying pop numbers, and an encore unlike anything we’ve ever seen. The fabulous performer made it a family affair by not only covering songs by his mother and father, but also by bringing in his sister, Lucy Wainwright Roche, as an opener.
The impressive first opener of the evening, Rufus’s close friend Teddy Thompson, worked the room like a seasoned comic with his charming, frank sense of humor and confidently clear vocals. All the British folk singer needed was a six-string acoustic to make an impact that will last for days. Thompson’s strong voice was as colorful as a stained glass ceiling – his range and delivery are some of the best in the business. In between charming jokes that left the middle-aged crowd chuckling, he crooned about love and days past in such a capturing way that we couldn’t take our eyes off of him. Not forgetting his swift and agile guitar skills, this singer/songwriter can hold his own even while on tour with one of the most celebrated vocalists of this time.
Daughter of musicians Loudon Wainwright III (also Rufus’ father) and Suzzy Roche, Luzy Wainwright Roche knows her way around a mic and a stage. The seemingly shy but quietly funny singer performed one song before asking for questions or requests from the well-behaved audience, as if she was adding in a stand-up routine. After the short-and-sweet questions, including what it’s like to be a Wainwright, she continued her cozy acoustic songs. Her youthful tone and vulnerable lines brought a sense of warmth and soul-searching to the room, as if we were curled up on the couch on a cold winter night. Her set showed she is more about the story than delivering grandiose bridges or intricate guitar solos.
Wainwright appeared abruptly after, like a solemn ghost, on a dark stage lit only by candles in a silky black-, white-, and red-striped suit that was somewhere between a zebra and the twilight zone. With only a hushed electric as backup, he began his set with the tragically gorgeous “Candles.” The charismatic singer’s rich chords and signature sleepy pronunciation dominated the instruments, and throughout the evening he added an operatic element to his pop-influenced catalog. His colorful personality surpassed the loud outfit, complete with graceful arm movements and hair flips that showed off his surfer-chic look.
With a hearty backup band (including Thompson on guitar) and two vivacious backup singers, Wainwright’s showmanship thrived in all facets. Whether behind the mic with a guitar or sitting at his piano, he ripped through tracks with a graceful flare that only a true professional could encompass. The popular song, “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” with its contradictory sunny melody and gloomy confessionary lines, came early in the evening to a roaring applause. Thompson and backup singer Krystle Warren stepped out for their stirring takes on two of Wainwright’s late mother, Kate McGarrigle’s songs, “Saratoga Summer Song” and “I Don’t Know.” Wainwright stated that both performances could be seen in an upcoming documentary to honor his mother, titled Sing Me the Songs That Say I Love You, which will be out later this year.
Soon after a cover of Judy Garland’s “The Man That Got Away” with a stunning fade-in-and-out approach -- which he dedicated to Liza Minnelli for her defiant and uncaring reaction to his cover of Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall concert in a recent interview -- Wainwright closed with the heart-pumping single “14th Street.” What happened next is still a flabbergasting disconnect from the rest of the show.
A half-dressed Cupid initiated the encore by begging the audience to dance in order to get “Rufus Apollo” back out. The singer appeared in the crowd shortly after in a short white toga and a blonde wig, only to pull a number of audience members onstage for a dramatic rendition of two tracks including “Gay Messiah,” complete with a giant salami sandwich and costumed band members. We knew he was unpredictable and had a style all his own, but this was too much. The encore left our heads spinning, wondering if that’s what it feels like to be inside the powerhouse's adventurous head.
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