Rufus Wainwright | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Rufus Wainwright 

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RUFUS WAINWRIGHT

Unlike the undistinguished stuff his fellow famous babies--Emma Townshend, Chris Stills, and yes, Sean Lennon--have been spitting up recently, Rufus Wainwright's Rufus Wainwright (Dreamworks) would be worth hearing no matter who his parents were. As it happens, they're singer-songwriters Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle, but his music has little in common with theirs, except perhaps a blissful disinterest in the mainstream. Wainwright's primary instrument is piano, but he plays it like neither Tori Amos nor Little Richard. If anything there's a Weill-esque grace to his elegant chords, which are augmented by lovely prerock string arrangements courtesy of kindred spirit Van Dyke Parks. And though you won't soon confuse him with Caruso, the young opera buff's singing definitely benefits from his appreciation for what a voice can convey, especially without the usual limitations of rock 'n' roll. With a drawl that recalls shy-guy popster Ron Sexsmith, Wainwright lays on the emotional stuff without caterwauling or contorting his face too much; his countenance seems more connected to his languid melodies than his lyrics, romantic though the words are. The tunes require some patience--they won't hook you on first listen, but they will slowly snake into your memory and refuse to leave. In addition, Wainwright's supposed to be a great wit onstage. He opens for Lennon. Friday, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160. PETER MARGASAK

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by David Gahr.

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