Rufus Wainwright – Live From The Artists Den
(recorded 2012, released on CD in 2014)
Wow. Just… wow. This is an incredible performance from an artist at the very height of his powers, both vocally and artistically. Drawing mostly from his latest studio album, “Out Of The Game”, Rufus Wainwright and his exceptional band (including the wonderful Teddy Thompson on guitar and vocals) recorded this live performance at The Church Of The Ascension in Greenwich Village, New York on May 17th, 2012. I was very to lucky to have attended a “warm-up” gig at Under The Bridge in Chelsea, London a couple of weeks previous to this performance and so am absolutely delighted to have a live album with an almost identical set list and, although the gig I went to was utterly brilliant, it has to be said that this performance is slightly more polished and you can hear the church’s acoustics making a huge difference to the overall sound. Honestly, this live album sounds simply incredible; even though I own quite a few live performances by Rufus, this one may just be (and probably is) the greatest ever made available commercially. Sometimes everything just comes together – the voice, the band, the material, the acoustics… this is one of those occasions and it’s rather special.
Of course, the one problem for some people may be the set list. If you don’t care for “Out Of The Game” (I really don’t see how that is possible… apparently it is, but I absolutely adore it) and want to hear your favourites from his earlier albums, then you may not care for this performance as much as I do. However, magnificent renditions of “The One You Love”, “Going To A Town”, “14th Street” and “The Art Teacher” should hopefully keep those enamoured with Rufus’ earlier catalogue happy. As far as I’m concerned, there is nothing here that falls flat, from the solo a cappella opener “Candles” to the general magnificence of the big numbers such as “Rashida”, “Song Of You”, “Jericho” and the playful “Out Of The Game”. The tributes to his parents, performing Loudon Wainwright’s “One Man Guy” as well as Kate McGarrigle’s “On My Way To Town” are brilliant and faultless, in fact the version of the former is the best I have ever heard, partly thanks to sharing the vocal duties with his band. As well as being a thoroughly enjoyable live performance in its own right, “Live From The Artists Den” is also a jaw-droppingly brilliant companion piece to the studio album most of these songs come from, which is, in my opinion, one of the best pieces of work that Wainwright has ever produced in his astonishing, glittering career. Highly recommended and, if you’re a Rufus Wainwright fan, downright essential.