Rufus Wainwright - Taronga Zoo, Sydney

Written by Shuk-Wah Chung

Rufus Wainwright - Taronga Zoo, Sydney

Wainwright. It’s a surname that needs no introduction, but if there are defining characteristics that make this musical family so special it’s these: charming, sweet, funny, and self-deprecating.

On a warm autumn evening with the afternoon sun casting beautiful shades of orange across Sydney’s harbour, Lucy Wainwright Roche, half-sister to Rufus and Martha, takes to the stage. Performing a number of sweet, but fairly average folk songs she acknowledges that most of us aren’t here to see her.

“How many of you have ACTUALLY heard of me before?” she asks. Her musical ability might pale in comparison to her better-known siblings but she makes up for it with her charming personality and humorous interaction with the audience.

As the stars come out and Sydney’s twinkling lights sparkle over the harbour, Rufus Wainwright appears in a salmon pink blazer and a silver sequinned tie. “I’m here to celebrate my ‘Best Of’. I wish it was my ‘Greatest Hits’, but it’s not,” he says jokingly.

Equipped with only a piano and a guitar, this is Rufus stripped back and raw with his emotions all out on stage. During Vibrate – a song about searching for a Go-Go dancer he spent one night with, and an anthem for our online dating age if ever there was one – he sings like a tortured drama queen, full of loneliness and yearning. “My phone’s on viiiiiibrate for you,” he cries about his unrequited lover.

Throughout Jericho he channels passion and futility, tired of the struggle with wanting and wishing for his relationship to change. In Want, he invites you into his heart and sings with an amazing softness filled with gentle, romantic notes that linger. I almost tear up.

Being Mardi Gras night it’s fitting for a few flamboyant performances to be thrown in and with a grand introduction he’s soon joined on stage by Liza Minnelli, aka his sister dressed in a black wig and bad makeup. “Let’s rock!” he says as they launch into Me and Liza and April Fools before being stage-crashed by a man dressed up as Judy Garland.

“It’s time for the animals to go to sleep,” he announces and after a short walk off stage he’s immediately back for an encore – the dramatic and Bush-era protest song Going to a Town; Poses about New York dreams shattered; and a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. With a perfect backdrop of the city skyline it’s simply spiritual.


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