Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Review -- Rufus Wainwright @ David Pecaut Square, Toronto, part of Luminato Festival (June 10, 2012)

Rufus Wainwright
  Rufus Wainwright: photo by Michael Ligon

Without question, Canada's most prominent renaissance musical artist these days is Montreal native Rufus Wainwright, and with the release of his seventh studio album, the Mark Ronson-produced Out Of The Game he broadens his musical palette even further. I'd last seen Rufus when he performed a solo set in 2009 at the Osheaga Festival in Montreal, his mother Kate McGarrigle still living at the time even performing with him. It was a special set and did give me the itch to see Rufus perform live again. Performing down at David Pecaut Square to a packed audience as part of the Luminato Festival, Rufus introduced selections from his new album and played a bunch of crowd favourites.

Rufus started out the set on a subtle note with "Candles" from the new album, singing acapella and with some members of the band contributing a few harmonies later on. He continued with a few more songs ("Rashida", "Barbara") from the new album, this time with the band which showed Rufus more laid-back than I've ever seen him, and displaying Ronson's imprint all over them, with some subtle soul, r n' b and pop nuances. It was with Poses "Greek Song" that Rufus delved into his past catalogue, calling the song a romantic song and an ode to his boyfriend. Although Rufus' sister Martha was in attendance and would join him in song later in the set, she didn't sing with him on his most well-known hit "April Fools". It still sounded wonderful.

There were poignant moments during the set as well. Acknowledging the late Levon Helm of The Band, Rufus performed 2004's "The One You Love" on which Helm had drummed on. Except for some faint chatter at the back and noise from the street, the audience grew quiet as Rufus and his sister Martha Wainwright performed a duet of their late mother Kate McGarrigle's song "I Am A Diamond". Although prior to that sublime performance, Martha feigned some sibling squabble with her brother, that she had to come out on stage in her relatively plain ward robe, while exclaiming to Rufus that he had to come out " that fucking outfit" (referring to his glammy / glittery outfit. The poignancy of the set at that point in time continued with Rufus on piano on the melancholy "Respectable Dive" singing "But I’m not able to put my cards on the table, And if you only knew of the hand I was holding".

While he'd referred to his significant other as his boyfriend earlier on in the evening, at this point then referred to him as his fiance, and that he was now out of the game (and that it was a nice place to be), segwaying of course to a performance of title track of his new album, with it's sunny, Californian vibe. Rufus bantered late that they're now "...deep into the California sound of the album..." and then jokingly said "I love L.A. -- why would I be wearing this..." (referring again to his glammy outfit).

Other highlights of the night included the cover of his dad Loudon Wainwright III's "One Man Guy" with just acoustic guitar and some lovely 3-part harmony and Rufus solemn rendition of his 2007 song "Going To A Town". Rufus would later return for an encore performing solo on piano on his 2003 song "Dinner At Eight" and then, urging the crowd to dance he ended the night with "Bitter Tears" from his new album. With the spectacular, "un-Canadian" weather which Rufus jokingly had referred to it, and with the stellar selection of tunes Rufus and band had performed, it was one of the most enjoyable outdoor shows I've experience in a while.

Photos: Rufus Wainwright @ David Pecaut Square, Toronto, part of Luminato Festival (June 10, 2012)

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