When you've been called 'the greatest songwriter on the planet' by Elton John and hailed as 'one of the best voices and songwriters of his generation' by numerous media outlets, you might expect Rufus Wainwright's ego to arrive separately on stage in its own diamond-encrusted, horse-drawn carriage.
Instead, the New York-born, Montreal-raised musician is revered by his fanbase but rarely heard on daytime radio - and that's unlikely to change anytime soon. Yet having railed against that resignation in recent years – even going as far as making an album with Mark Ronson as producer and featuring as a guest on Robbie Williams' duets album – the newly-bearded Wainwright finally seems relaxed about where he is in his career. As he explains, bounding onto the National Concert Hall stage in a shiny, eyebrow-raising two-piece ensemble designed by Ben Westwood (son of Vivienne), he has finished writing his second opera 'Hadrian' (which comes off the back of his last album release, a series of Shakespearean sonnets set to his own compositions – yep, not exactly radio-friendly), but is simultaneously comfortable about looking both forward and back after twenty years of releasing music. A tour encompassing his first two albums will hit Europe next spring, while he is also currently working on his new 'pop' album, set for release in about a year's time. The world of Rufus, as he calls it, seems pretty well-balanced right now.
Still, Wainwright's live shows can often be mixed affairs; in the past, clearly underrehearsed, some of his Dublin gigs have verged on amusingly – sometimes frustratingly - shambolic. But even as he flubs a piano riff or guitar chord here and there, he is so damned charming that he gets away with it every time. One thing that Wainwright never fumbles, however, is the sheer magnificent power of that rich, one-of-a-kind voice of his. Whether he's at his piano for opener 'Beauty Mark' or the stunning 'The Art Teacher', or taking to his acoustic guitar for 'Out of the Game' and later a cover of Leonard Cohen's 'So Long, Marianne' – or, indeed, singing a capella for a beautiful rendition of 'Candles' – he nails it every time.
There are several new songs in the mix from that aforementioned pop album, too – one, a sweet strummed tribute to his husband Jorn called 'Peaceful Afternoon', another a dramatic piano affair with dashes of Scott Walker called 'Early Morning Madness', a third called 'Only the People That Love', while 'Alone Time' has, as he himself admits, shades of his father Loudon's wry style. There's also time for a bit of silliness; his tongue-in-cheek anti-Trump song (which he admits is terrible – and he's not wrong) is accompanied by an interpretive dancer with questionable fashion choices.
Continuing the 'tired of America' sentiment, 'Going to a Town' opens the encore and brings the house down, while the ever-popular 'Hallelujah' and the perennially gorgeous 'Poses' round out an enjoyable setlist that has been a decent overview of his career. He leaves a standing ovation with a promise to return in spring for that aforementioned 'All These Poses' tour. Will we be there? We wouldn't dare miss it.