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Baroque pop troubadour taps '70s singer/songwriter
muses with a swooning twist

Rufus Wainwright
Vic Theatre
Chicago, IL
August 8, 2012
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Story and photos by Andy Argyrakis

There's never any way to guess what direction Rufus Wainwright will dive towards on any given disc, as evidenced by a resume filled with baroque pop, opera and even Judy Garland covers. On the new "Out Of The Game" (Decca), he hearkens back to '70s singer/songwriter pop, evoking everyone from David Bowie to Elton John and Harry Nilsson, all backed by production from Mark Ronson (Adele, Amy Winehouse).

Of course, even when Wainwright channels other muses, he can't help but sound like his swooning self, which coupled with loads of theatrical delivery during his Chicago tour stop, revealed just how distinct and original he remains fifteen years into his critically lauded career. Though the troubadour did dip back to the past to provide a career spanning overview, half of his two hour set was locked in the present.

After kicking off the concert with the sparse acoustic simplicity of "Candles" (performed exclusively by candlelight), the momentum began building with the jazzy "Rashida" and the retro/electro groove "Barbara." A little later, the current collection's title track emoted a warm, AM radio feel that marked one of Wainwright's most immediate tracks of the last decade, while "Perfect Man" swung with equally catchy '70s throwback beats that were amongst his most danceable.

Wainwright also demonstrated his sense of humor, backhandedly dedicating Garland's "The Man That Got Away" to her daughter Liza Minnelli, who was said to have avoided listening to any of his tributes. The theatrical entertainer also demonstrated loads of versatility, such as a salute to his dad Loudon Wainwright III with the folksy "One Man Guy." Speaking of legendary tunesmiths, Leonard Cohen also earned a shout out during "Chelsea Hotel," sung as a gloriously haunting duet with the night's support act Adam Cohen (who is indeed that elder's poetically-inclined son).

Following that resplendent rendition, Wainwright returned to center spotlight to send fans home with memories of how his entire journey started. "Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk" strutted with his signature vocal swagger and plenty of quirky pop sensibility, while "Poses" resounded with pristine piano playing that added some classically-inspired grandeur into the enchanting evening.

Related articles:

Rufus Wainwright - Concert review - Milwaukee, WI - August 2007
Rufus Wainwright / Ben Folds - Concert review - Highland Park, IL - June 2004

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