RUFUS WAINWRIGHT at the GUVERNMENT May 16. Tickets: $22.50. Attendance: 1,000. Rating: NNN
there's nothing about rufus
Wainwright's soaring cabaret pop that particularly screams rock concert, so aside from capacity issues, booking the Montreal/L.A. crooner into the drafty Guvernment Wednesday was a bold move.
It helped that this was a very different Rufus Wainwright than the one who silenced the Trinity-St. Paul's crowd during his last tour. Some quality time in Hollywood away from the "next big thing" machine has turned Wainwright into a much more confident and cocky performer, strutting around and winding the women in evening gowns up at every turn. How else to explain the peculiar decision to wear a vest with no shirt, an ensemble the singer himself described as "Cheryl Tiegs-ish."
Fashion aside, the sense of confidence was most obvious in Wainwright's music. Backed by a five piece band including sister Martha and guitarist Teddy Thompson, the singer subtly reworked tunes from his forthcoming Poses album with surprising results.
Rather than strip away the arrangements for more straightforward live readings, he beefed the music up, making songs like California and One Man Guy, underwhelming on record, sound fuller and more vibrant live.
They still paled when put head-to-head against songs from his remarkable debut, but that's to be expected. Maybe Wainwright's dream of having 30 Wurlitzers on stilts playing behind him isn't so ridiculous after all.