Last Night: Rufus Wainwright at the House of Blues

Last Night

: Rufus Wainwright and Lucy Roche Wainwright at the House of Blues Anaheim.

Better Than

: A night at the Met.

Best Overheard Question:

"Is Rufus gay?"




; "14th Street" off

Want One

It was the most dressed down I'd ever seen Rufus Wainwright, which, if you've ever had the pleasure, is a pretty big deal. His un-ironed denim button-up was tucked into an average pair of jeans; strappy Jesus sandals  adorned his feet. The only hint of Rufus' usual thought-out (and/or just plain bizarre) digs was the single rhinestoned brooch that topped it all off.  The outfit, actually, was akin to the overall feeling of the evening's set: Stripped down, casual, intimate, comfortable. Wainwright performed without his usual backing band--which at any time can even include a full-on schmaltzy brass band--it was just him and the guitar or piano, whichever the song called for. And it was nice. Pleasant, even. 
Even lone opener Lucy Wainwright Roche followed suit: Roche started things off with a lovely set of narrative songs so honest and pure it could only remind me of that one gal in high school who toted a guitar and notebook everywhere she went. Roche's time onstage was filled with as many stories and self-deprecating, adorable stage banter as it was with songs, a habit that seems to run in the family. She spoke of the time her date's lung collapsed; the potential evils of Facebook ("Keep reality alive!") and attributed the polite audience to our proximity to Disneyland. Father and iconic folk singer Loudon Wainwright III joined her onstage for a sweet rendition of Loudon's "Needless to Say" (Loudon's only spoken words? "If it wasn't for me, you all wouldn't be here!"), which left the audience with just the right amount of the warm and fuzzies.

Complete with a set of Mickey ears, Rufus Wainwright then took to the stage and treated the audience to a career-spanning set, with longtime fan favorites like "Hallelujah," "April Fools," "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk," "California"  and "Grey Gardens." It was self-indulgent, wonderful and dramatic--after all, it was Rufus Wainwright.

Rufus' voice rang out into the quiet venue, thrilling, rich, emotional. Sing-alongs weren't rare, but an almost eerie silent awe reverberated from the audience during most numbers. Along with the full backing band and the fancy outfit, Rufus also left his usual ostentatious stage show behind--the last we heard from him, he was revisiting Judy Garland's legendary concerts at the Hollywood Bowl and Carnegie Hall.

Sure there were a few slip-ups throughout the evening: Forgotten lyrics, out of tune guitars ("Oh God, I feel bad because I usually have someone tune my guitars--but my father's here so I should do it myself... Oh! Is that what you do?") and such, but it only added to the overall charming parlor room feel of the evening.

Though it was a stripped down set, Rufus still lived up to his "popera" label with the succession of "Art Teacher" (Glass-inspired) followed by "Vibrate" (Verdi) and "Little Sister" (Haydn).  And then? Rufus caught the live video feed of himself on the monitors affixed to the stage, paused, fluffed his hair and remarked, "God, I look like I'm from Pennsylvania--I just washed my hair."

For more photographs from the show, see the lovely Beth Stirnaman's slideshow here.

The setlist: 

Going to Town

Sonnet 20

Beauty Mark


Katonah  (The Death of the Firstborn) 

April Fools

Gay Messiah (with extra emphasis on the lyric "baptized in cum"!)

Art Teacher


Little Sister

Not Ready to Love



Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk


Grey Gardens

Leaving for Paris


Get Along Little Doggie (with Lucy and a very proud looking Loudon gazing constantly from daughter to son) 


Critic's Notebook:

Personal Bias: I pretty much fall in love with everything theatrical, campy, opulent and orchestral. That and Rufus Wainwright once hit on my boyfriend some years ago in Los Angeles. I'm real proud.
Random Detail: The gal in front of me with the big bouffant and the can of Bud Lite that kept obstructing my view had on a monogram Coach mini-backpack. This is great only because it was like 1992 was colliding with 2002.
Question: Where can I sign up to be a Wainwright?

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