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Arts News

Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright

Usher Hall, Edinburgh

Keith Bruce

I SHOULD not labour the point (although I will), but the last time Rufus Wainwright played such a straightforward show in Edinburgh, it was his solo debut at La Belle Angele and many fewer folk saw him sat behind a piano - which was not a spotlit Steinway.

I'd be prepared to bet, however, that I was not alone in the capital's centenary-celebrating hall in following him on that colourful journey, because Wainwright inspires that sort of devotion, as the ecstatic ovation at the end - rewarded with a fistful of encores - confirmed.

Scrupulously honest as ever, Wainwright told us all that the object of the gig, promoting his "best of" collection, Vibrate, was to make money, hence the absence of a band and lavish costumes.

That admission won a cheer, as even a stripped-back Rufus holds some mystery.

Chief among these is why (cash rewards aside) he is so nakedly ambitious for pop success - consorting with Guy Chambers and Robbie Williams - when his gift is composing what are fundamentally what the classical world calls "art songs", rather than pop songs. His finest songs are the more intricate work, with even the catchiest (Out of the Game, Going to a Town, and the now-venerable Poses, which he told us he still thinks is his best) utterly structurally distinctive.

What Wainwright proves is that it is possible to do that and still be a lot of camp fun. For that, his half-sister Lucy Wainwright-Roche was a perfect foil, her own charming solo set followed by an appearance as Liza Minelli (costuming minimal) for Me and Liza, before duetting on Cohen's Hallelujah - a song Wainwright should be one of the few folk allowed to sing.

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