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Paul Mann: Genius of Wit, Music Shine Through in Rufus Wainwright Concert
The UCSB Arts & Lectures concert series offered up the second show of the season last Tuesday, most fittingly at the university’s own Campbell Hall. The nearly two-hour solo performance by prodigious singer/songwriter Rufus Wainwright was well-suited to an academic environment, ripe with witty banter and political posturing amid a brilliant soundtrack of masterful music.
Wainwright played original music from his catalog of seven albums, one opera and a host of other diverse musical projects. The feisty singer with a remarkable voice moved effortlessly through the night from piano to guitar.
The musical prodigy, who came from a prominent musical family (his father is Loudon Wainwright III), began his professional singing career touring at age 13 with the the McGarrigle Sisters and Family. The band was composed of Rufus, his sister Martha, his mother Kate and his Aunt Anna (who he acknowledged in the crowd at the UCSB show).
For nearly two hours, Wainwright played his fascinating music, usually with a minstrel style banter before each song. He would offer up witty antidotes covering everything from the personal inspiration of certain songs to his outspoken political views.
The openly gay songwriter, who has dual Canadian and American citizenship, offered up his own humorous assessment of the upcoming presidential election. He likened candidate Mitt Romney to an automaton version of Brooke Shields: “I have a house in Canada,” he quipped. If Romney wins, ”I already have one foot out the door. I am just sayin’.”
His comments were well-received in the liberal academic crowd at UCSB, but no matter what your political leanings might be, there is no debate over the immense talent the singer/songwriter exhibits in his live shows.
While singing his opera in French, the masterful piano-playing crooner sounded like he would be right at home in the 17th century court of a French king. But sometimes when he played a particularly bluesy song on the guitar, he seemed to be evoking the ghost of Woody Guthrie.
The singer’s solo set was packed with other diverse sounds, with songs taken from his soundtrack to William Shakespeare’s sonnets for an English theater piece, and new pop album Out of the Game, produced by the enormously successful Mark Ronson. Ronson helped launch the careers of Amy Winehouse and Adele.
Wainwright received an extended standing ovation at the end of his show from a truly appreciative audience. Afterward, he stayed to chat and sign autographs for his fans.
The UCSB Arts & Lectures series is offering up one of its most impressive seasons of entertainment ever. Click here for more information on upcoming events.
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