A happier Rufus Wainwright is coming to Perth. Ray Purvis reports.
t’s a relief to learn that Rufus Wainwright has emerged relatively unscathed from what he describes as the most tumultuous time of his life — the period surrounding the terminal illness of
his celebrated mother, Canadian folk singer Kate McGarrigle, who died from liver cancer in January, 2010. Reflecting on those dark days, the North American singer-songwriter says: “Everything was emotionally draining for me back then. For me just to go and pick up the mail at the post office was emotionally draining. With my mother’s death just around the corner, it didn’t matter what I did — I could’ve built a pyramid at that point — I would have felt the same way.”
Only two months after his mother’s passing he embarked on a world tour performing his excruciatingly personal sixth studio album, All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu. This collection of downbeat songs, including three maudlin Shakespeare sonnets set to music, was written during his mother’s protracted illness and her last days in hospital in Montreal. Never one to do things in a small way, on the tour the grief-stricken Wainwright underwent a catharsis every night. At the start of his Perth concert two years ago, an announcer told the audience not to clap between the songs before the singer slowly glided on stage dressed in a 5m-long feathered black cloak. Against the backdrop of a film showing a close-up of a weeping eye, he proceeded to pour his soul into the songs of tender desperation.
“I definitely knew I was putting myself out there,” he says about those shows. “My mother brought my sister (singer Martha Wainwright) and I up on stage and that’s always where we
felt the most natural in terms of dealing with the big emotions. So it made a lot of sense.” The 39-year-old gay pe
rformer hailed by Elton John as an “American treasure” and by the Pet Shop Boys’ Neil Tennant as “the best songwriter working today”, has now put all the sadness behind him. One of the reasons for his lift in spirit is to do