Clad in gold, Rufus Wainwright shines beside the seaside

Review: Rufus Wainwright, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill

Monday, 2nd July 2018, 3:01 pm
Updated Monday, 16th July 2018, 5:00 pm

We all go to a gig with a variety of expectations: for most of us it is a need to be entertained, others seek inspiration, while some require respite from the rigours of a humdrum existence.

While it will always be the case that you will never please everyone, I would defy anybody who saw Rufus Wainwright at the De La Warr Pavilion on Saturday to claim that the first two aforementioned objectives at least remained unfulfilled.

Rufus Wainwright is an entertainer to his very core, a fact evidenced when he bounced on stage at the “cute” Bexhill-on-Sea venue wearing a gold two piece, the kind of outfit that only he could make seem like practical attire.

We all know that he is a supremely gifted musician - a man with an army of fans who, based on Saturday’s audience cannot be pigeon holed into a particular cultural demographic, but he is also a genuinely warm and funny raconteur.

We were informed that he had not only written his second opera, which will be performed in his native Canada in the coming months, but that he had been for a dip off the coast earlier that day. It is the kind of easy, informal patter that you expect to hear between friends, rather than an international performer engaging with a room full of strangers.

Although the intimacy of this very special venue definitely helped, Wainwright is a musician with the rare gift of making an audience member feel that they are being sung to directly.

This was a gig designed to please the assembled crowd, a set crammed full of songs from both his later albums and some new tracks, which will be released as part of a new record some time next year. This was, as he succinctly put it, Middle Rufus.

His opener, the suitably dramatic Beauty Mark, set the tone for a 90 minute set which saw him regularly switch between his trademark piano and the guitar.

His next number, Vibrate, was the perfect vehicle from which he could showcase his impressive vocal range. The set skipped along with Wainwright classics such as the Art Teacher, alongside the occasional new track, which included Peaceful Afternoon, an obligatory nod to his husband, which featured a reference to ‘sex, death and keeping the kitchen clean’.

There was a brief break from the music when he performed the least Rufus Wainwright thing you will ever hear - a rap. Although this one was an amusing skit about Donald Trump and ended with a defiant roar of ‘Don’t let him into your country’.

As the set rolled to its inevitable conclusion we were treated to genuine crowd favourites, including the Gay Messiah, a song which has brought with it a degree of controversy over the years. It also provided the link for two genuinely very funny anecdotes.

There was hardly a sound in the packed auditorium as he belted out the mesmeric Going To A Town, a protest song written 11 years ago during the Bush administration and one which is just as relevant today. I can’t imagine that it has ever been sung with such raw feeling as it is right now, during the Trump years.

An adoring crowd were released into the warm summer’s night following a finale of Hallelujah and Poses. I didn’t notice one person without a spring in their step.