Better than: ...the ham elevator next door at UMAMIcatessen
At the Orpheum last night, Rufus Wainwright opened his show by beginning at the end. "Candles," which closes his new Out of the Game album, has a reverential, hymnal feel and Wainwright performed the song acapella, backed up with his singers' choral harmonies. It was a quiet but powerful invocation and largely set the tone for the evening: a graceful, relaxed performance punctuated by occasional spikes in emotion and energy.
Given that 1) Wainwright might be the greatest baroque pop star of his generation, 2) he recorded an entire tribute album to Judy Garland and 3) he showed up last night in gold lamé pants, a tuxedo jacket and red slippers, you'd be forgiven for thinking the night would be more showy or mawkish. However, Out of the Game lends itself to neither; Wainwright has described it as his most "pop" album which would make sense if the year were 1977 since the main pop styles he engages seem largely drawn from 1970s easy-listening radio.
For example, early in the show, Wainwright performed "Barbara," "Welcome to the Ball," and "Song of You," all of which play with the kind of stylish, ornamental pop sound of the Electric Light Orchestra or Supertramp. Elsewhere, songs like the title track and "Jericho" bear the subtle folk/country twangs of Fleetwood Mac or the Eagles. It was all quiet pleasant and Wainwright's voice was in top form, but especially in the first third of the show, the pacing and affect were both slow and restrained.
It might have veered toward plodding if not for Wainwright's ad libs and crowd banter. Given that earlier in his career he lived in L.A. for several years, he seemed genuinely affectionate for the city, though he couldn't help but toss a few easy jabs our way. At one point, he looked down at the Orpheum stage, noticing marks in the floor and joked they must have been left by "all those Hollywood hopefuls in their heels." He also shouted out Silver Lake's Gwen Stefani for starring in his first video ("April Fools") before playing that song. Oddly, however, his second selection of the night, "Rashida," was written for Parks and Recreation actress Rashida Jones, but this went unmentioned.