Saturday, September 24, 2011

Rufus Wainwright: May 13, 2001

I've seen Rufus Wainwright several times, but this was the last show of his I really enjoyed. It took place at an intimate (and very crowded) venue before he started opting for the more lucrative but less enjoyable rounds of outdoor summer concerts and casino gigs. It also coincided with the release of my favorite of his albums, Poses. Rufus was in top form, giving a powerful but genial performance of songs from his first two releases. What I remember best, though, is the weird family dynamics on display that night.

The twin-sister duo of Tegan and Sara opened the show with a set more notable for their incessant sibling bickering than their songs. Later in the evening, Wainwright told the story of how he got thrown out of the gay bar Sidetrack the last time he was in Chicago. All feigned innocence, he insisted all he'd done was accidentally bump someone, causing him to spill a drink. The next thing you know, he was being roughed up by bouncers and tossed out on the sidewalk. (Knowing that Sidetrack is a decidedly non-tough bar and that Rufus was a hot mess during this period, I'm guessing this was not the most accurate version of events.) Rufus' sister Martha, who was singing backup for him, gently chided him that maybe that wasn't all that happened. They bantered back and forth for a minute before he gave up, declaring, "God, we're starting to sound like Tegan and Sara."

Such glimpses of personality were largely missing the next couple of times I saw him, in part because he played at outdoor summer festivals. To me, there's something about a person at a piano that calls for a smaller venue.

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