From the Archive-
Rufus Wainwright at Benaroya Hall- Beloved of His Fans
Benaroya Hall, November 8th, 2009, with opening act, Joan as Police Woman
By E. Joyce Glasgow, www.artsandculturescene.com
*This article was originally published in the Seattle Gay News Arts and Entertainment Section, after the concert in 2009. Now that I have my own website, I am re-publishing articles and photos from my archives, as the information about the performers and venues is as valuable now as it was then in learning more about these artists and venues.*
Rufus Wainwright, www.rufuswainwright.com, has been out about being Gay for many years and unabashedly wears his romantic heart comfortably on his sleeve. His comfort in being who he is, living in his skin, gives his voice a level of honesty, openness, passion and emotional depth that touches the listener on very real, visceral and spiritual levels. His voice is beautiful to listen to because it has such a distinctive quality and is coming from such a real, human and soulful place. I could have listened to him all evening. I felt like I was hearing one of the great, major talents of his generation.
In a solo performance, accompanying himself alternately on piano and guitar, Wainwright played old favorites and new songs, including songs he is still working on for an up-coming CD of just piano and voice. He performed one of his Shakespeare Sonnet songs, first reciting it, and then singing it. He said it was the “controversial” Sonnet that most people think is about a woman, but is really about an androgynous boy. He also sang a really beautiful piece, in perfect French, from his new opera, which is sung by the prima donna, reflecting on her life, as she looks out over fireworks. Wainwright’s pianism is elegant and classically oriented. He is a very accomplished pianist and uses gorgeous and unusual passages on the piano, juxtaposed with his expressive, wailing vocals.
Speaking of wailing vocals, the only complaint I had about Wainwright’s performance is that I couldn’t hear most of his words, which are a very important part of his songs. I didn’t know whether he was just poorly enunciating, or whether the sound was poorly mixed in this very reverberating hall or a little of both. I had no trouble hearing Joan as Police Woman’s lyrics in her opening set. I asked the usher for a hearing enhancement device but he brought me a set of earplugs instead. So much for hearing the words!
When he came on to the stage, Wainwright flatteringly commented about his Seattle audience: “Two out of every ten boys in this audience look to me like Gay Messiahs. I just came from New York …where everyone… just looks…Gay”.
Wainwright sang a song about a young man he had a crush on when he was a teenager in Montreal. He also performed “California” with guitar. He closed his set with his popular, upbeat classic, “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” and returned for two encore songs, “Going to a Town” and then called Joan as Police Woman out to sing a duet of Leonard Cohen’s iconic, “Hallelujah”.
Joan as Police Woman, www.joanaspolicewoman.com, opened for Wainwright and sounded like the female counterpart to Wainwright. Her songs’ themes are quirky and introverted, about relationships and very much about storytelling. She has a lovely, expressive voice, original musical style and accompanied herself on piano and guitar. Her shiny silver form- fitting spaghetti strapped dress, purple tights and calf high blue boots made a stunning outfit, kind of a cross between Brooklyn musician (which she is) and Star Trek.
See a variety of Rufus Wainwright's performances in the following videos.