The Vic // Chicago, IL // November 20, 2018
“Basically, [Leonard Cohen] was obsessed with me.”
Rufus Wainwright was one of the most important artists to me in high school. I grabbed his first album at a Barnes & Noble in 2002 while on a trip to D.C. with my grandparents, and he’s never left my rotation. Imagine my unbridled joy when I was approved to photograph his Chicago show, just one stop on the All These Poses tour. The tour is in celebration of the 20th anniversary of his first album, Rufus Wainwright, and he’s been playing it in its entirety while regaling the crowd with stories of its inception. There was no photo pit for this show, so I camped out on a set of steps towards the front row and nervously awaited the start of the show.
The lights dimmed, and the band started playing “April Fool’s”, the album’s single and an instantly recognizable track to his fans. Rufus strode onstage in a vaudevillian suit and top hat, seemingly confident and humbled by the audience’s excited cheers. Throughout the night, Wainwright regaled the crowd with stories of the album’s tracks. He cited Leonard Cohen as being a massive influence in his life (his daughter is Leonard Cohen’s biological granddaughter), and learned that Cohen was particularly enamored by Wainwright’s song, “Sally Ann”. Wainwright expressed complete humility at this fact, and, in the same breath, jokingly said “Basically, he was obsessed with me.”
One of the highlights of Wainwright’s set was his cover of Joni Mitchell’s “Both Sides Now”, which showcased Wainwright’s emotional range brilliantly. He made the song his own and gave the audience a glimpse into how vulnerable he can be. Following a short intermission and a grand costume change, Wainwright came back and treated the audience with an incredible second act. Poses, the follow-up to Wainwright’s debut album, has been considered to be his strongest and most beautiful album. Wainwright played Poses in its entirety as a surprise, and the audience was completely captivated (and that includes yours truly). Poses is an incredibly important album to me, and I never thought I’d get the chance to hear it live.
The majesty of Rufus Wainwright is unparalleled. Even without the costume changes, dramatic lighting, and accompanying band, Wainwright could keep you captivated with just a piano and a microphone. I can only hope that he keeps breaking my heart and giving me hope for years to come.