BWW Review: RUFUS WAINWRIGHT: SONGS THAT BUILT ME at Lincoln Center
Rufus Wainwright oozed with charm on Wednesday night at Lincoln Center's American Songbook series. Wainwright captivated the audience in the impressive Alice Tully hall, singing tunes with his iconic richly textured voice. He appeared on stage wearing a sparkling yellow and black sequined suit. ("I was going to wear black tonight, but I kind of fell into Century 21 and didn't make it out alive," he joked.)
Wainwright's career has spanned decades. At Alice Tully Hall, he performed some of his more recent songs, as well as some of his favorite American standards. He began with a trio of songs by Canadian artists, including a sweet and simple cover of his mother Kate McGarrigle's "Southern Boys," joking that he "had to get that out of the way," even though this was the American Songbook series. He also performed a beautiful slow cover of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now."
Due to illness, special guest Stephanie Blythe was unable to attend the show. However, Wainwright found a very special last-minute replacement in Jake Gyllenhaal. Gyllenhaal did a lovely solo on Wainwright's "Poses," and the two dueted on the Everly Brothers' "All I Have to Do Is Dream."
Wainwright made a clear choice for the show to do slow, drawn-out songs, either songs that were originally written kind of melancholy slow or slowing down up-tempo songs. IntroducingHal David and Burt Bacharach's "The Windows of the World," he said, "The show tonight is a bit of a downer, sorry." Though Wainwright is an incredibly talented performer, this had a sort of monotonous effect by the end. His singing was fantastic - he has a unique style all his own, and a full-throated belt with a vibrato that sends chills down your spine the first time you hear it - but the repetition of similar orchestration styles had the effect of making each song seem like they were blending together into one, even though I was already familiar and liked almost all of the songs in the concert individually.
I'm not exactly complaining: Wainwright is a musical force to be reckoned with, and I still very much enjoyed the concert, I just would have personally enjoyed a little more variety. To be fair, this probably depends greatly on how much of a Wainwright fan you are personally. The packed house clearly was hanging on his every word and every song.
Some of the stand out performances were "Montauk," from Wainwright's 2012 album Out of the Game. Wainwright played the piano himself, and you could see him come to life as he plucked the keys. The song has a haunting electric melody that feels like it was meant to be performed by Wainwright and Wainwright alone. Wainwright also did a sweet cover of his father Loudon Wainwright's "Your Mother and I," and a stand out cover of "Brother Can You Spare a Dime." He orchestrated the song in his iconic style, and the anger in his voice was palpable.
Fans of Wainwright should look out for his upcoming album, Unfollow the Rules. You can learn more about the series online here.