Opening with the eponymous track from Wainwright’s latest album Release the Stars, the bar is set. Oversized mirror balls descend from the rafters, pitching stars across the Hall and confirming that, yes, Rufus has entered the building. Forever partial to “shocking people with glamour,” Wainwright swaggers on stage in a lime green, satin suit wearing enough bling to shame 50 Cent.
The all-male seven-piece band rock out in garish patchwork suits inspired by the stars and stripes of the American flag, which also serves as a backdrop. Yet the giant flag has been altered to reflect Wainwright’s anti-American sentiment, as expressed in the album’s single, Going to a Town. Black and white stripes replace the traditional red to “represent all that is wrong with the United States”, while intricate brooches form stars in the top left corner. “America is a lot like Judy Garland right now: gloriously f**cked up!”
Despite the glitzy trimmings, Wainwright does not take his supreme talent for granted. He approaches each song as if it were his final tribute to love, truth and beauty, but mercifully it is not, allowing us to revel in his languid tones over and over again. Indeed, the percussive Beautiful Child best articulates Wainwright’s apocalyptic attitude: And when they finally fall/ these wailing walls and burning crosses/ Gods, twilight and all/ Oh, how I’ll feel like a beautiful child/ such a beautiful child again.
Unfortunately lyrics such as these are often lost due to Wainwright’s stylistic tendency to slur his words, yet it is difficult to fault anything else in his delivery. Wainwright makes the soaring melodies seem effortless and few could tackle such a demanding range and long phrases without his superb vocal control. In this regard he undeniably outshines famed family members Martha Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle.
Wainwright once said that he wishes he had his sister’s voice, but it is hard to believe that anyone would desire to give up their greatest musical asset. Admittedly, Wainwright’s vocal chords were in particularly top form last night, genre-hopping from hypnotic waltz Leaving for Paris to the momentous, Do I Disappoint You, without falter.
It would appear that, at 34, Wainwright is in the prime of his career. Since overcoming crippling drug addictions in 2003, Wainwright has only surged to greater heights, both musically and in the charts. Putting all his energies into music, including the New York Met commissioned opera Prima Donna, Wainwright is finally lifting off. Now that he has ‘released the stars’, after pumping out four similarly stellar albums, perhaps, for Rufus Wainwright, too much of a good thing is never enough.
Australian Tour Dates
Sunday 27th January – The Tivoli
Ticketek | 132 849
Tuesday 29th January – State Theatre SOLD OUT
Wednesday 30th January – State Theatre
Ticketmaster | 136 100
Friday 1st February – Hamer Hall SOLD OUT
Sat 2nd February – Hamer Hall
Ticketmaster | 136 100
Wednesday 6th February
Wrest Point Entertainment Centre
Wrest Point Service Centre 02 6221 1700
Thursday 7th February – Norwood Concert Hall
VenueTix | (08) 8225 8888