Rufus Wainwright / Lucy Wainwright Roche, Usher Hall, Edinburgh, 05/03

Elton John calls him “the best songwriter on the planet,” and that very songwriter would be the first person to agree with him. Tonight, Rufus Wainwright is playing Edinburgh’s Usher Hall, a venue befitting the grandeur of his ‘baroque pop’ music. Wainwright is currently touring in support of Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright – “Not ‘Greatest Hits’”, as Wainwright mockingly laments at one point – released this week.

Wainwright is supported by his sister, Lucy Wainwright Roche, who plays a set of beguiling and introspective songs on her guitar. This includes ‘Accident & Emergency’, which Roche humorously explains is about where a disastrous date in London ended up. She joins her brother later on stage for several songs, and even briefly appears dressed as Liza Minnelli in a bizarre skit to poke fun at Minnelli’s visible displeasure at Sunday’s Academy Awards, when host Ellen DeGeneres joked that she looked like a Minnelli impersonator. Roche/Minnelli also duets on new single ‘Me and Liza’, a playful song about Rufus Wainwright’s feud with the Hollywood legend.

Using only his piano, guitar and incomparable voice, Wainwright effortlessly delivers the highlights of his remarkable back catalogue, including fan favourites such as ‘I Don’t Know What It Is’ (the “song that means the most” to him), ‘Poses’, ‘Dinner At Eight’, and his beloved cover of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Hallelujah’. The mournful ‘Candles’ is sung a cappella to stunning effect, while two new songs are sung at the piano; one is about Wainwright missing his husband Jörn Weisbrodt in South America, while the other is an ode to friendship. Stripped back, this truly is Rufus Wainwright at his best; every audience member who rises to their feet after his second encore knows they are in the presence of genius.

[Lorna Stallard]

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