Rufus Wainwright, Rachel Eckroth @ Festival Theatre, Adelaide 22/2/2019

The support for Rufus Wainwright tonight is Rachel Eckroth who is also part of his band. Rachel has put out two albums and we heard mostly songs from her excellent 2018 When it Falls album. It is just Rachel with her dreamlike vocals and her keyboards on stage tonight but I would love to see her with the full band one day because by herself some of the songs lacked the punch of the album versions. I really enjoyed We’d Be On Fire which with the dual-layered vocoder vocals which gave me flashbacks to seeing Laurie Anderson at the same venue many years ago. Strangest Dream and It Never Was were also wonderful songs. Rachel confided in us that she had a boyfriend from Adelaide once who dumped her for another girl named Rachel. I resisted the urge to yell out “I am here Rachel … with Rachel”

After a short break the remarkable Rufus Wainwright hit the stage and for the first set, we were treated to songs from his first self titled album released in 1998 just over twenty years ago. Rufus jumbled the playing order from the album and started with the joyous and jaunty April Fools. Sally Anne sounded great with his mournful vocals and we learnt that it was Leonard Cohen’s favourite song off the first album. Sally Anne was dedicated to Penny Arcade who was in town for her own Fringe show. For the first set, Rufus told us little anecdotes about a trip to Barcelona and then later dedicated Beauty Mark to his late mother and told us he still had fond memories of the first time he was in Adelaide in 2005 with his mother, aunt and sister (Martha Wainwright) at the Dunstan Playhouse.

Rufus has a beautiful texture to his resonant voice and he is able to sustain a melody for a long time and this was no more evident with a cover of Joni Mitchell’s Both Sides Now which received the biggest cheer of the set. The set finished with a heartfelt sweeping ballad Sword of Damocles which is a criticism of Donald Trump and at times sounded similar to Without You by Harry Nilsson. I was a little surprised that Matinee Idol from the first album was not played as I quite like it and it has been a staple of his live show for many years.

For the second set, Rufus played his second album Poses in order from start to finish with no anecdotes. This was the favourite set for me as his second album, in my opinion, is the stronger of the two with both catchier choruses and better singing. He started with the wonderful Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk and then two song later was the title track Poses which both usually appear at the end of his sets. Grey Gardens and California sounded glorious. His cover of his father’s One Man Guy was delightful and showed that he has a little touch of his Dad’s folk roots in him. Rufus was ably backed up by his five person band and I was quite excited to see Gerry Leonard on guitar and band leader duties who has worked with David Bowie and Suzanne Vega. Evil Angel sounding like a dark prog rock version of Darth Vader’s theme and In a Graveyard ended the set to a standing ovation by the crowd.

Rufus came back on stage to rapturous applause. He revisited the first album with Imaginary Love and then played Going to a Town from the Release the Stars album and finished the night with a jaw-dropping version of Across the Universe by the Beatles. Rufus and band then took their bows to another standing ovation and left the stage.

Live Review By Richard De Pizzol

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