Due to a Google Maps glitch, which led to me and my friend pacing repeatedly up and down Lothian road like a pair of expectant fathers, we missed the first song. When we finally find the venue (turns out it was the big dome lit up like Blackpool) Rufus Wainwright is just about to launch into his second number.
Damsel in Distress is one of my favourite’s from Rufus’s latest Unfollow the Rules album. Wainwright is touring with a small band (Alan Hampton- double bass, Jacob Mann- Keys and Brian Green- Guitar) and it’s really interesting to hear how they’ve adapted the more elaborate and adorned tracks. Here the stripped back arrangement brings the soaring harmonies to the fore and a tasteful electric piano solo is the cherry on the cake.
Despite the more low key instrumentation, Wainwright is still the consummate showman, as demonstrated by his rather fabulous garb (designed by Scottish singer-songwriter Angela McCluskey). From the legs up he is Mr Saturday night and paired with a pair of ruby red slippers from the ankles down he is all Yellow Brick Road.
Tonight the set list is drawn primarily from the new album with tracks from the rest of Wainwright’s back catalogue, plus a few covers. You Ain’t Big is among the best of the album tracks, a satirically slinky Randy Newman-esque little groover. Whereas Early Morning Madness is a little more oblique and downtempo, with the glorious noise the band summon up putting me in mind of late career Scott Walker.
The covers predominantly skew Canadian with a rapturously received version of Neil Young’s Harvest and a goose-bump raising sung So Long, Marianne. It was through the 2005 Leonard Cohen documentary, I’m Your Man, that I think Rufus first came to my attention and his uncanny ability to reinterpret the great man’s songs is rivalled only by Nick Cave.
It almost goes without saying that Wainwright’s voice is fantastic, it seems to have matured and deepened with age and on Unfollow the Rules he showcases a tenor so rich that you can almost reach out and touch it.
This is the first gig on the UK tour and Wainwright confesses to being pretty jetlagged. This doesn’t seem to affect his voice or playing but very occasionally he loses his place in a song but he unruffled, charms his way out of it. If anything it seems to add to the sense that you are getting a one-off experience as do the slightly rambling intros in which he explains the genesis of his songs.
The show concludes with an encore consisting of two more Unfollow the Rules tracks (Alone Time, Hatred) before a masterful version of one of Wainwrights most popular songs Going to a Town from the Release the Stars album.
The Unfollow the Rules‘ album tour finds Rufus Wainwright in fine form and voice, performing his first new set of pop songs since 2012s Out of the Game.