All photos courtesy of Fizzkitty FotoRufus Wainwright
's recent album Out of the Game
may have been more aptly named than he had originally intended. While his artistry and talent were apparent at his not-quite-sold-out show at the 9:30 Club in Washington, DC, his demeanor and banter seemed to give off a sense of being "over it." His self-deprecating humor verged on cynical as he repeatedly mentioned a lack of albums sales, rave reviews, money and a band to accompany him on tour. While these jokes didn't truly cast a black cloud over the show, it left one wondering about the sentiment behind the jokes and his overall performance attitude, regardless of his craftsmanship on stage, which out-shined any stage banter.
One leaves a Rufus Wainwright concert torn between the terrible choice of giving in to their desire to listen to songs they just heard as album versions set against the stark reality that the version they heard live will almost certainly cause the audio version to pale in comparison-- and this goes even for solo shows like the one at the 9:30 Club.
His talent and passion on stage are nearly matchless. He plays the piano vigorously while maintaining intense and commanding vocals like a musical mad scientist. Though his talent is not in question, perhaps his musical sense of self is at this point in time, as he has stated recently that he is attempting to raise funds so he can settle down from touring and album creating to put together another opera. Also awkward was some mid set stage banter such as "…we're reaching the more lugubrious parts of the set…..you may want to get another drink," signaling a spate of more somber songs like "Martha," "Who Are You New York," and "Danny Boy." Thankfully, the audience held its place and kept a sense of enraptured awe at the dedication and attention he gave to each song.
During his performance of "April Fools" a guitar string broke, pre-empting something of a minor catastrophe for the singer/songwriter, who required the aid of both his half-sister and the sound-man to get his equipment back into good working order and shifting the course of the setlist for a few songs. Though this wasn't really a distraction from the intrigue of his set-- he was able to turn negatives into positives in more than just this case. He seems to have no problem stopping himself mid-song and telling the audience he didn't like the note he hit or the chord he struck and rewinding himself a few seconds back before re-singing the line. Moments like this give him a sense of authenticity and emotion that are both endearing and humorous.
Regardless of the technical and emotional hiccups during the set, his live performance truly does breathe new life into his lyrics and vocals in a way the studio/record simply cannot contain. Though it was a solo show containing a simple grand piano and a guitar or two his renditions of "Out of the Game," "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk," and his cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" (for which his half-sister Lucy joined him) had the audience cheering throughout the songs. Likewise, his encore of "Poses" and "Montauk" had the crowd in whistles and applause, so much so that you could almost tell his mood had shifted and he left the stage on a high-note, buoyed by a venue and a crowd he graciously thanked and hoped to bring his music to again soon. Setlist
The Art Teacher
The Maker Makes
Out of the Game
Who Are You New York?
Going to a Town
The Walking Song (Kate McGarrigle cover)
Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk Encore