A HUSHED ATMOSPHERE in a sacred space. A fop. A piano. A great, great song. The Art Teacher, from Rufus Wainwright’s 2004 album Want Two is one of the louche singer’s best-loved numbers and for good reason. It’s transformational, with the singer inhabiting a woman’s lifelong obsession with the titular pedagogue, as she relives a school trip to an art museum: “He asked us what our favourite work of art was / But never could I tell it was him.” The tragedy of her unspoken love seems to resonate endlessly, as if bouncing mercilessly around in your chest.
This May 17, 2012 performance of the song is just one highlight of Rufus Wainwright: Live From The Artists Den, a scintillating set released digitally, on CD, DVD and Blu-ray by Artists Den Records/Universal on March 3. It’s an expanded 69-minute version of an episode of the PBS TV staple, where notable pop and rock artists are showcased in charismatic venues (Elvis Costello at the New York Public Library; er, Kid Rock at Graceland). The Blu-Ray adds another 50 minutes of behind-the-scenes fun-and-games.
Wainwright’s venue is Manhattan’s beautiful Church Of Ascension, and although Rufus and band start confidently enough – Candles, Wainwright’s tribute to his late mother Kate McGarrigle, and the sashaying Barbara are almost too slick to be live – it’s when the perspiration flows and the cracks begin to show, as during Montauk’s idiosyncratic tableau of home life chez Wainwright and partner Jörn Weisbrodt, that the magic really sets in.
Long-term Wainwright-watchers have come particularly to enjoy the weird incongruity of his exquisitely rich, elegant singing and hilariously gauche, quasi-panto-dame gambits – like the cardboard-cutout Helena Bonham Carter mask he dons for this DVD’s version of Out Of The Game (she appeared in the video, you see). So, as a re-creation of the RW live experience, it’s pretty authentic.
Add said DVD to a burgeoning list of Rufus-orientated activities, with the 17-track Vibrate: The Best of Rufus Wainwright also emerging on March 3. It features a brand new recording, Me And Liza. 2CD and digital deluxe editions add 16 rare live and studio tracks. Meanwhile, Rufus plays UK shows this spring…
March Mon 4th DUBLIN, Vicar Street Tues 5th EDINBURGH, Usher Hall
April Sun 6th LONDON, Theatre Royal Sun 27th WARWICK, Warwick Arts Centre,
Buy Rufus Wainwright: Live From The Artists Den from Amazon: http://po.st/RufusWArtistsDen