Rufus Wainwright / Rachel Eckroth National Arts Centre, Ottawa ON, May 23
Published May 24, 2019After embarking on his puzzlingly titled "All These Poses" tour late last year, commemorating 20 years since the release of his self-titled LP, Rufus Wainwright ended his 16-country jaunt in the nation's capital, performing the entirety of his beloved 2001 LP, Poses, alongside nine of 12 tracks from his 1998 debut.
Opening the evening was Wainwright's touring keyboardist, Rachel Eckroth. The former session musician for Chris Botti and KT Tunstall beamed mature radiance, politely anchoring herself behind her instrument to give the aged and well-dressed theatre crowd a 30-minute set that focused on dreamy but jaunty renditions of tracks from her latest LP, When It Falls.
Entering the modestly dressed stage in a Victorian top hat and pinstriped suit, Rufus exclaimed to the audience, "We did it!," referencing the culmination of his six-month tour.
Surrounded by an equally well-dressed five-piece band, featuring Aimee Mann producer and bassist Paul Bryan, former Jeff Buckley drummer Matt Johnson, keyboardist Jaime Edwards and late-era Bowie guitarist Gerry Leonard, Rufus picked up his acoustic guitar to christen the crowd with a rendition of "April Fools."
Seating himself on a stool, Wainwright strummed a nylon string guitar through a tight version of "Barcelona" that found his band tastefully sitting back to allow his powerful voice to boom throughout the theatre. To accompany many of his songs, Rufus regaled fans with humorous stories and anecdotes, including how Leonard Cohen was "briefly obsessed" with his song "Sally Ann," and how he wrote "Beauty Mark" as a response to his mom rejecting most of his early songs.
After a show-stopping version of "Millbrook," which found Wainwright alone behind the grand piano, the six musicians ended the first set with a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" and a newer song written for the U.S. midterm elections, "The Sword of Damocles."
Returning to the stage while donning a different top hat and enormous, bedazzled jacket, Wainwright powered through the entirety of Poses, moving between piano, guitar and simply gripping the mic, with upbeat numbers like "Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk" and "California" receiving the best response from the much-too-behaved crowd.
Without stopping to speak to the audience, Wainwright performed the 50-minute LP in near-real-time, leaving little room to let his classic songs breathe, before ending with a swift but soaring version of "In a Graveyard."
Retuning to the stage for the upbeat "Imaginary Love" and the crowd-pleasing "Going to a Town," from his 2007 LP Release the Stars, Rufus ended the nearly two-and-a-half hour show with his cover of the Beatles' "Across the Universe" before promising that he'll be back next time with "new songs" — clearly showing an exhausted-looking Rufus more than ready to move on from the first 20 years of his career.