Rufus Wainwright at Vicar Street, Dublin 4th March 2014

Rufus Wainwright stopped by Vicar Street on Tuesday night for the first date of his ‘Best of’ tour to coincide with the release of his nearly-released ‘Best of’ album. The veteran of ten albums is known for his lush orchestral arrangements, so the challenge for the songwriter tonight is to prove that he can still provide the entertainment without a backing band. His sister Lucy Wainwright supports, and has a kind of shy charm that is quite engaging. Her guitar playing is relaxed and easy, and her warm vocals are soothing and impressive.

Normally rather severe on record, Wainwright immediately shows an easy-going side, warning the crowd he’d need some time to warm up his vocals. This proved to be true, it isn’t until four songs in that Wainwright finds his stride, stepping away from the piano to play Out Of The Game on the acoustic guitar. The accompaniment may be a bit blocky and simple when compared to the rich arrangements on record, but Wainwright’s vocals really excel in this environment and his entertaining guitar hop adds to his overall appeal. The bubbly Wainwright then treats us to the story behind his next song, Chic and Pointless, a quote from a particularly negative review in the New York Times. Whatever their opinion is over there, here Wainwright’s distinctive and moving tones fill the venue. Chic and pointless? Not tonight anyway.

Friendship emphasises again the quality of Wainwright’s vocals, with long, relaxed notes defining his style. The song also highlights the need for a bigger arrangement; Wainwright shouting “The French Horns come in here” doesn’t quite have the same effect. He then introduces Liza Minnelli to the stage (i.e. his sister in a wig) and this sideshow is more baffling then anything else, but does lead into an upbeat and exciting version of Liza and I. Wainwright progresses into the darker section of his back catalogue with Going To A Town and then Martha, both of which allow him to indulge in some piano mastery, which was lacking from some of his earlier songs. His bubbly personality keeps proceedings becoming too moody, and he remarks that his set becomes a bit heavy in the middle and that he’ll have to change it for the upbeat folk of Scotland. Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk with its catchy tune and powerful vocals is truly exceptional, as is Hallelujah, a song covered so much that it is difficult to be original, but Rufus does just that, and it is a breathtaking rendition.

Some songs this evening really miss added instrumentation, and it is the songs that are simply arranged that excel the most here. Wainwright certainly has the talent, songs and showmanship though to keep the audience entertained all night. Intimate and charming or bare and gimmicky, take from this show what you will, but there’s no arguing that Wainwright holds the audience’s attention for the entirety.

Rufus Wainwright Photo Gallery

Photos: Aaron Corr