Review | Rufus Wainwright bares his soul at Perth Festival

Rufus Wainwright | Kabarett Haus | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★  

Glittering onto the stage in a sparkling jacket and trousers, Rufus Wainwright feels right at home at the Kabarett Haus. A transformed Perth Concert Hall sets the Canadian musician on stage beneath a colossal chandelier with just his piano, his guitar and his beautiful, soaring voice.

With no ceremony, Wainwright dives straight onto the keys with The Art Teacher from 2004’s Want Two. Admitting to feeling a little nervous, he second guesses his own lyrics, and in true professional cabaret style brushes it off with a laugh and continues with the music.

The evening features music from Wainwright’s impressive catalogue spanning back to 1998, including his cinematic entries such as The Maker Makes from the Brokeback Mountain soundtrack and Moulin Rouge‘s Complainte de la Butte.

Wainwright also previews a few tunes from his forthcoming album Unfollow The Rules. There is something beautiful and surprisingly uncommon in hearing a gay man write songs of a long-lasting relationship, and Wainwright’s queerness seeps throughout the concert.

This is perhaps most apparent in Wainwright’s tributes to Judy Garland. Having performed and recorded an entire tribute to Judy’s legendary performance at Carnegie Hall, Rufus is certainly a friend of Dorothy as he belts out her brassy tunes in his grand and gorgeous style.

A surprise visit from Kabarett Haus curator Meow Meow was also a highlight of the evening, as the glamorous duo smashed up Happy Days and Get Happy in a delicious slice of cabaret genius, but the showstopping number of the evening would have to be Over The Rainbow. Backlit by an impressive rainbow of lights, his husband in the audience, Rufus takes Judy’s unofficial pride anthem to another world with his exquisite performance.

True to this year’s Perth Festival theme of place and home, Wainwright’s music is also a celebration, or perhaps exploration, of his native Canada and his famously musical family.

Kitty Come Home, a beautiful ballad originally performed by Wainwright’s late mother Kate McGarrigle and written by his aunt Anna is overflowing with love, while Dinner At Eight provides a scathing analysis of Rufus’ relationship with his father Loudon… not unlike his sister Martha’s hit single Bloody Mother F**king Asshole, also known to be dedicated to dad.

Rounding out the evening, Rufus shows some love to his daughter with Montauk, finally launching into fan favourite Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk. Fittingly, after minutes of thunderous of applause, Rufus returns for an encore with his version of Hallelujah, originally performed by the legendary late grandfather of Rufus’ daughter.

Over 90 minutes, Rufus gives audiences an intimate glimpse into his heart through a catalogue of unashamedly emotional music that dives deep into the trials and tribulations of love, family, politics and place. Though his set was littered with covers and tributes, Rufus’ voice and music are a sensationally singular force that made a perfect fit for this year’s Perth Festival lineup.

Music continues this week at the Chevron Lighthouse with disco star Evelyn ‘Champagne’ King, the legendary gospel artist Mavis Staples, Aldous Harding and The Blind Boys of Alabama. 

Leigh Andrew Hill is an editor at OUTinPerth, with a BA from the University of Western Australia in Media Studies & Art History. Since 2005, Leigh has studied and practiced journalism, film-making, script-writing, language, contemporary performance and visual arts. Leigh is also a freelancer writer, and producer and presenter on RTRFM 92.1.

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