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Live Review Rufus Wainwright Her Majesty’s Theatre Mon 17 Sept By Mal Byrne

Rufus Wainwright has been to Adelaide four times and I’m proud to say that I’ve seen each performance. His Australian debut was about seven years ago touring with his sister Martha, mother Kate and aunt Anna McGarrigle. He was precocious, the unmentionable Von Trapp child. On the second tour in 2008, he had a terrific band and blew the Norwood Town Hall away with a joyous concert that included a full drag recreation of Judy Garland’s Get Happy. Two years ago at the Festival Theatre, he performed the song cycle written for his late mother, Songs for Lulu, “dressed as death” (his words) where clapping was forbidden, but then returned after the interval to perform a greatest hits set piano only. The focus of Tour 4 is Rufus’ latest album Out of the Game, a return to buoyant Rufus – happily married to Jorn and the father of baby Viva with Lorca Cohen. It’s another strong album, with a sprinkle of rock amongst the pop, and Rufus and his latest band – under the musical direction of Mr. Martha Wainwright, Brad Albetta – did it justice live, although while the latest album dominated, there was a sprinkling of old favourites, more Judy, and tributes to his parents.  

Opening with an a capella version of Candles on a dimmed, candlelit stage, the rhinestone suited Rufus then launched into Rashida and Barbara (all from the new album) before interposing April Fools and the classicCigarettes and Chocolate Milk from earlier days. A huge bonus this time around was mate Teddy Thompson on guitar, whose sweet melodic vocals compares favourably with the star’s own, leading to superb harmonies complemented by Krystal Warren and Cherisa Blackman. Rufus took a break allowing Thompson to give a gorgeous version of McGarrigle’s Saratoga Summer Song followed by Warren on her I Don’t Know. Rufus returned with my personal gems from the new album – Respectable Dive, the title track, and Jericho.

However, it would appear that a Wainwright concert wouldn’t be complete without a Judy song. After taking a crack at a dismissive Liza Minnelli comment about his Judy tribute concert, “the Bitch who got away”, Rufus then sang the heart tugging The Man Who Got Away, and so lovingly recreated the ambience of A Star is Born with an intimate trio (brilliant piano from Andy Burton), that I was touched. Clearly, Liza doesn’t get it!The Art Teacher has become mandatory and Thompson, Warren and Rufus combined seamlessly on Loudon’s One Man Guy.

Still, a Rufus Wainwright concert is a Rufus production guaranteed to finish with pizzazz. This time, a “hunky Cupid” appeared, summoning us to a Bacchanal organised by “Rufus Apollo” and his band of wizards with Thompson in self-described “boxer briefs”. Rufus appeared in toga (the wig more Dusty Springfield than Roddy McDowall) whilst the audience bopped to an encore of Old Whore’s Diet and Bitter Tears which included a dozen or so lucky stage invitees before Apollo led his charges away with the topical Gay Messiah.

Prefaced by an excellent Thompson solo set (Please bring him back on his own!) and a strong set by Megan Washington, the concert was an epic three hours and twenty minutes. The teenager who staged Tosca with Martha for his parents lives on.