RUFUS WAINWRIGHT @ Perth Concert Hall gets 7.5/10

Rufus Wainwright @
Perth Concert Hall
Friday, February 21, 2020


The Perth Concert Hall was transformed into a Kabarett House for the second night of Meow Meow’s Pandmonium takeover. Cabaret tables took up the first few rows of the room, with a large chandelier about the stage, flanked by numerous low hanging light globes. Taking over the Kabarett House for this intimate Down Solo Wainwright showcase was Rufus Wainwright. 

Wainwright is larger than life. He is a rare character and is so comfortable onstage, to the point that it is impossible to imagine him doing ordinary things like grocery shopping, or catching the bus. It is a lifestyle he was always destined to follow, since his parents Loudon Wainwright III and Anne McGarrigle were both folk singers of great note. Rufus is the most flamboyant entertainer within his talented family, even putting wildly talented sister Martha Wainwright to shame in that area, as his glittering jacket attested. 

Wainwright began the night seated at the piano as he warmed up with some of his signature tunes. The Art Teacher explores sexuality and unrequited love. In the past he has always come across as cherub-faced with an angelic voice, but he now sports a bushy grey beard that shows all of his 46 years of age. His voice has changed somewhat too, with a grittier tone that adds weight to his middle register. 

Realising that he was in Perth, Wainwright veered from the script and regaled a tale of swimming in the ocean during a visit to Perth as the ashes of Heath Ledger were scattered from the shore. It was followed by a tender rendition of The Maker Makes, a tune that Wainwright had placed on the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack. 

It wasn’t until Wainwright picked up his guitar and made his way to centre stage, that the glory of the gold pinstripes in his suit glistened in the lights. Coupled with a pair of patent sequinned shoes, the always immaculate singer was dressed to impress. He may be a far more impressive musician on piano than guitar, but his songwriting prowess wasn’t overshadowed as he strolled through Out Of The Game. Unable to contain his energy, he hopped on one foot. 

Informing the attentive crowd that he has a new record titled Unfollow The Rules coming out in a few months time, Wainwright took the opportunity to give airings to Peaceful Afternoon – a song for his husband – and Early Morning Madness, which he coyly said was about waking up with a raging hangover. These newer tunes disrupted the flow of the evening a little, but will become a solid part of the arsenal when the upcoming album leads them to be more readily available. 

Pink Martini’s Thomas M Lauderdale joined Wainwright on stage and took up residence behind the piano. Lauderdale is both flamboyant and precise at the same time, to be the perfect foil for the evening. A sweet anecdote about Irving Berlin’s How Deep Is The Ocean being a favourite tune of his, and one that Martha sang at his wedding, was followed by Wainwright’s classy rendition of the song. A taste was then given of Wainwright’s renowned summoning of Judy Garland’s iconic Carnegie Hall performance, with a spritely Zing! Goes The Strings Of My Heart. 

Meow Meow | Photo by Jessica Wyld

The guests continued to appear as Meow Meow purred and slinked from behind the curtain to duet with Wainwright on a Kurt Weill number, before Happy Days/Get Happy Are Here Again medley. It was Somewhere Over The Rainbow that brought the house down though. The evening hit a bit of a holding pattern as Wainwright forgot a verse here and there, or started tunes in the wrong key, but he finished strong with Motuauk and Cigarettes and Chocolate – even when messing up the cabaret outro.

In his most serious statement of the night, Wainwright said “Man, we’ve got to get rid of that Trump dude” before a vehement Going to a Town. Somewhat predictably, he ended the night with Hallelujah. Cohen’s original is a gem, but the swag of the cover version spawned a legion of bands in the ilk of Radiohead, and that is clearly unforgivable.

In any guise, Rufus Wainwright is worth the price of admission. Whether it is his voice, songs, playing or persona that draws you in, it’s hard to leave disappointed. 


Lead photo by Josep Echaburu


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