Wainwright Stuff

Rufus Wainwright

Friday, March 12

La Zona Rosa
612 W. 4th St., Austin
Rufus Wainwright hasn't yet sounded off on the brewing gay marriage debate in this country, but it's only a matter of time. Wainwright, the spawn of singer-songwriters Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, and himself one of the most gifted pop artists of his generation, thankfully has never seen the inside of a closet. He sings with melodramatic flair about his search for rebel princes, writes about his fascination with gay messiahs and - displaying a candor that would startle the average Advocate subscriber - even comes clean about an adolescence spent watching The Golden Girls.

Wainwright's sexuality, and the obvious delight he takes in discussing it, makes for an easy media hook, but it has little to do with the power of his music. Taking bits of his beloved opera, the lush cinematic pop of Harry Nilsson and Randy Newman, the Canadian folk of his mom, the righteous sarcasm of his dad, and the flowery vocal gymnastics of Jeff Buckley, Wainwright reclaims the spirit of the great American songbook for an anxious new era.

While he has more in common with Cole Porter than any contemporary artist, when he responds with envy and confusion to a party for the Strokes (in the song "I Don't Know What It Is"), you realize that he's not a nostalgist, he's a classicist. He doesn't want to turn back the clock, he's simply using classic musical themes to speak about his times. And unlike Norah Jones, another young classicist, he possesses audacity and ambition. Wainwright risks self-indulgence at every turn, and part of the thrill is realizing how often he eludes it. •

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