Rufus Wainwright at the Avalon Ballroom on August 21

A review of Rufus Wainwright at the Avalon Ballroom on August 21, 2007

, Contributing Writer

If you were a singer and had to choose the most flattering introduction for your emcee to say, how many of you would want the world to know that you had custom-made lederhosen? Those were the first words of the introduction before Rufus Wainwright made his grand appearance on stage at the Avalon Ballroom last week. Never mind that Wainwright is touring in support of his fifth studio album, Release the Stars. Or that his songs gave graced many film soundtracks or that he is an icon in the gay community. Nope; he wanted us all to know that he has custom-made lederhosen. The man behind those lederhosen bounded on stage with a wardrobe that would have made Elton John all warm and bubbly inside; white pinstriped suit with sequined butterflies.

Wardrobe and humorous introductions aside, Wainwright put on a show that had the diverse audience energetic at times and seemingly bored at others. For the most part, Wainwright is a delightful entertainer. His between-song banter was hilarious and he had the crowd gushing over his charm and boyish good looks. Musically, he displayed a distinct and booming voice that united well with a talented backing band.

Wainwright was in Boston earlier this summer as part of Cyndi Lauper’s “True Colors” tour at the Bank Of America Pavilion. He has since released, Release the Stars, and the Avalon show allowed him to support the new material in a more intimate setting. Wainwright started the show with the soulful, passionate title track of the new release. He then hit the piano for “Going to a Town,” a new tune in which Wainwright proclaims that he is “so tired of America.” The plethora of instruments his band used, including horns, sax, trumpet and others all mixed well with Wainwright’s somber piano here and many other points in his two sets.

Other early highlights included the brand new, “Rules and Regulations,” “Songs to See” (a sprightly tune with flute accompaniment), and “The Art Teacher,” a fan favorite from his 2004 release, Want Two. The winner of a YouTube contest (which allowed one lucky fan to share the stage with Wainwright) came out on stage and put on a show herself as she crazily danced/ waited for her turn to do the speaking part of “Between My Legs.” The crowd absolutely ate it up, but Wainwright jokingly claimed he was only using her because “we can’t afford to fly Harrison Ford out here every time.”

After a brief intermission, he returned to his captive audience with a slow ballad “Harvester of Hearts.” It was not the best placement for the song, considering the crowd was raring’ to go. Rather than picking it up, Wainwright’s set continued to slow down and left the many in the crowd bored. He did his Judy Garland mini-set with classic ballads like “If Love Were All” and “A Foggy Day.” The change in pace was even accompanied by a demure wardrobe change. With a career as colored as his flamboyant style, it was surprising that Wainwright didn’t pull out some of his more flashier tunes that pack a punch, such as “California,” or “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk.” Just as the audience needed refuge from the “depressing territory” that Rufus warned he was getting into, he treated the audience with a spectacular rendition of “Beautiful Child.”& The song’s grandiose ending was a musical combustion of sorts and left the crowd rejuvenated once again.

The encore saw Wainwright complete with red lipstick and those famous lederhosen, for another Garland tune “Get Happy.” His band was having a blast as they danced around the stage and eventually segued into his hit, “Gay Messiah.” No one cared, including Rufus, that some of the lyrics were misplaced amidst the laughter and dancing, because the show went out with a bang. Rufus balanced eloquence on the piano and when not on the bench, a showboat quality that worked the Boston crowd well with his eclectic talent.

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