Rufus Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright and Chaim Tannenbaum at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre


RUFUS WAINWRIGHT, LOUDON WAINWRIGHT and CHAIM TANNENBAUM at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Friday, February 6. Rating: NNNN 

The smallish crowd that gathered at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre was treated to a heartfelt evening of largely charming folk music benefitting Patients Canada. Rufus and Loudon Wainwright, along with long-time friend Chaim Tannenbaum, seemed unbothered by the large patches of empty seats, instead using tongue-in-cheek banter and the beautiful acoustics of the theatre to their advantage.

The three combined solo, duets and trio performances throughout the evening, ensuring each one had a chance to shine. Chaim Tannenbaum’s sparse rendition of Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s post-divorce stunner I Eat Dinner (When The Hunger’s Gone) was so free of guile that it left the crowd speechless. Kate McGarrigle, Loudon’s ex-wife and Rufus’s mother, is a founding patron of Patients Canada and she was spoken of warmly throughout the evening.

The three collaborated for a rousing take on Loudon’s classic The Swimming Song this came after a cheerful tale of getting lost en route to the show, and father and son arguing about the correct way to get to the venue from Montreal. 

Loudon played the casual straight man to Rufus’s onstage quirks, but still elicited laughter during a glaringly revealing I Knew Your Mother. There was no shortage on honest reflections and moments and the three provided a glimpse into one of the most discussed families in folk.

Unhappy Anniversary, with Tannenbaum on banjo and Loudon singing with every last breath in his lungs, was especially powerful to this reviewer, months away from my wedding day. The three men let one emotional track loose after another with an almost casual grace, including Over The Hill, the only track Loudon said he wrote with McGarrigle. Most of the evening’s songs were the kind normally reserved for late nights alone but were still displayed in all their stark beauty. And yet the three performers seemed to be enjoying themselves so the crowd had no choice but to let their guard down as well.

Rufus was the only one who got serious at times, though his playful banter did help lighten the mood between a few sombre takes on Want. It was a reminder of the beauty of just a voice and a self-depreciating stage presence.

The three attempted to close the evening with Richard Thompson’s Down Where The Drunkards Roll and were slow, patient and though they probably didn’t mean to be, with Chaim on harmonica, they were terribly haunting.

Rufus then pulled a fast one and insisted on playing Marty Robbins’ country classic At The End Of A Long Lonely Day. Naturally, everyone was game even though the crowd was thin, those that stayed showed no intentions of leaving.



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