Hamer Hall, September 15
THE art of variety is one of the priceless inheritances of Rufus Wainwright. The way he structures and paces a performance is pure showbiz instinct, from candlelit a capella opening to mardi gras conga line climax.
He’s also as charming as a doe-eyed Apollo can be when working that fine line between comic self-deprecation and smirking show pony on songs as insightful and arresting as Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk and Montauk.
But with a crowded band mix that erred on the stodgy side on Jericho and Out of the Game, the key was knowing when to let some stunning material breathe, even if it meant doffing his cap to his parents or leaving the stage.
Teddy Thompson’s reading of the late Kate McGarrigle’s Saratoga Summer Song was one of the show’s devastating moments. Another was Loudon Wainwright III’s One Man Guy, on which Wainwright and Thompson harmonised with Charysse Blackman to bare guitar accompaniment.
With a shimmy of his pure white rhinestone-encrusted ensemble (”I feel like a snowflake!”), the son proved himself their equal with The Art Teacher, then added a hamfisted political context to his north-of-the-border view of the US, Going to a Town.
How he leapt from there into a riotous bacchanalian pantomime encore is a mystery. Some lucky stiffs are just born that way.