It took a while to convince myself that Rufus Wainwright was worth the $120 ticket price, but the guarantee of a front row ticket on the second night (even Rufus acknowledged that we were the intelligiemt ones) and a support slot by Megan Washington tipped the scales in his favour.
Backing band member Teddy Thompson was the opening act for the night. It took no time at all to highlight what a beautiful combination Hamer Hall’s acoustics could make with someone wielding such a great voice. He had a strong country vibe though, which isn’t my thing at all. I’m not going to rush out and buy his albums but it’s the kind of easy-listening sound that could join Michael Bublé and James Morrison as Mother’s Day best-sellers. He was a more than capable support in any case.
The last few times I saw Washington I wasn’t overly impressed. I was a big fan of hers in the earlier days but felt like the show had become a little repetitive or even cliché. In the intimate setting of Hamer Hall her set was stripped back - just her on a keyboard - and it was a definite improvement. Half of the set was new and these songs had a sincerity that restored my faith. Unlike the Insomnia EP they also offered something a little different to what we’d been hearing since the release of debut album I Believe You Liar. The old songs that were played were lesser known (like Five and Ten and Fighting The Good Fight) and that was an unexpected surprise. Her cover of Rowland S. Howard’s Shivers was nothing short of spectacular.
Rufus Wainwright’s entrance set the tone for the rest of the show - playing Candles on a candelit stage in white sunglasses, white shoes and a white suit finished with mirror shards to turn him into a walking disco ball. The set rolled on with a heavy bias towards the new album and recent releases, but the lack of early material (which is all I really know well) was covered by his, and the band’s, stage presence and their professional, impressive performance.
The set was broken up by two songs from the upcoming tribute film to his mother, one by Teddy Thompson and one by Krystle Warren - and I was immediately jealous of friends who got to see Warren open the show the previous night. Her backing vocals earlier in the show were good enough to catch my attention, but unleashed as the star of the show her voice left me shocked. I can’t remember hearing one as effortlessly powerful as hers, a special gift. If it wasn’t for the$50 price tag, I’d be heading along to the Northcote Social Club on Thursday to see her headline set. Alas.
The show then carried on until the inevitable encore break, but any expectations from that point on were quickly thrown out the window. If anyone reading this is yet to see Rufus live on this tour I urge you to stop reading now. Seriously, this is not an experience you want ruined with foresight. Anyway, moving on…
Half of the band returned to stage, realised the rest of the band hadn’t followed them, but spoke as though they’d probably be able to finish without them. They were cut short by a guy dressed as Cupid - fluffy undies, wings and nothing else - to reveal to the crowd that the true identity of the artist we’d been watching was not Rufus Wainwright, but in fact Rufus Apollo - god of sexy music, or something to that effect. The only way for us to get him back on stage was to start a dance party. The other half of the band returned dressed as ancient gods, got the crowd on their feet and dancing. Being in the front row I was terrified that this cupid character was going to drag us on stage to be part of he show but luckily he ventured out into the audience. Rufus eventually appeared in a revealing white robe and got about 20 people from the crowd on stage. What happened after this was a bit of a blur, but there was a giant foam sub sandwich, a lightning bolt, the whole crew (audience included) collapsing and then Rufus being reborn. In case you hadn’t worked it out by now, it was well worth the entry fee. Glorious stuff.
Rufus Wainwright Setlist
Teddy Thompson - 8/10
Washington - 9/10
Rufus Wainwright - 9/10