Rufus Wainwright and the Amsterdam Sinfonietta

Someone who had been on my list of people-to-see-in-concert for a long time was Rufus Wainwright. So I was happy to get tickets for the TivoliVredenburg concert. A different type of show for him, performing with the Amsterdam Sinfonietta orchestra.

Even before seeing him live I knew that I would enjoy the show. A lot of his music is very well-suited for orchestras and he is one of those musicians where I know beforehand that he has a lot of songs that I do not particularly like on cd, but that come out really well live. On cd they just lack a certain intensity and they are not able to move me emotionally. I have the same thing with jazz…it’s a genre I rarely listen to at home, but that is great fun to watch live. Probably because the musicians tend to be very skilled and passionate about what they do.

Anyway, Rufus did not disappoint. Although I was a little under the weather (sorry for the coughing, audience) I was really mov4d by thr intensity of his performance.

It was hard not to feel fully immersed, as HRG and I had seats in the middle of row 1. So both Wainwright and the orchestra were standing about 6 feet away from us for most of the performance. Slightly intimidating…probably more so because of his black jeans with white eye symbols and silver sprinkled loafers. There are not many people who can wear an outfit as daring as his and pull it off. But Rufus is definitely one of them.

During the almost 2 hour show he played a wide range of musical styles.  Songs from his father (Loudon Wainright III) and mother (Kate McGarrigle) and (their) folk contemporaries like Joni Mitchell. Hearing him sing All I Want made me realise once again what a skilled musician the latter is, and how many words she manages to cram in songs, seemingly without effort (or breathing) But also a wide range of traditionals, classics (I. Berlin) and a whole list of his own compositions.

None of his songs are particularly uplifting if you listen to the words. Akward, angsty, depressed, vulnerable…I can see why some people might find him a bit too much on the heavy side. I tend to like musicians who have a certain tormented side to them. Almost like they have an inner demon that forces them to sing, but singing itself causes them pain. And fortunately, although the music is never all that cheerful, it rarely affects my mood.

The two songs that moved me most were Argentina, about missing his husband while in South America and Going to a Town, which is one of his best known songs. The latter was preceded by Wainright referencing the current US political climate and that  we ‘cannot give up the fight’. Which I found interesting and made me wonder whether Wainwright himself considers this song to be a political protest song. Because to me the song does not feel like a fighting song but like more a song of melancholic acquiescence than a protest song. Either way, I found it particularly moving in relation to what’s going on in the US. 

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