MUSIC REVIEW | Rufus Wainwright charms the Minnesota Zoo

Photos By: 
Patrick Dunn

Rufus Wainwright occupies a very rare and important space in modern music. He makes pop music, he is popular, and yet he is decidedly not populist. What’s more is he appears to know this. It is with this confidence that he approached the stage at the Minnesota Zoo Ampitheater on a beautiful Tuesday night on June 24. After a brief delay, Rufus finally walked on wearing a shiny, silver suit—something he would refer to numerous times as the night went on—to cap a pleasant, playful opening set from his sister and tourmate Lucy.

Rufus is no stranger to playing the Weesner Family Ampitheater at the Minnesota Zoo , and he made it known, calling the stage in front of the lake “dramatic,” as if the shiny suit was but an ironic touch. All flair aside, Rufus gave the nearly sold-out crowd his bread and butter. He began the set with a few piano tunes, only to move to the acousic guitar—an instrument he is far less proficient at—for the majority of his nearly two hour set. Mixing songs old and new, Wainwright gave the adoring crowd everything they needed.

Among many great moments, highlights of the night included “Vibrate,” “Jericho,” and a song called “Treat a Lady,” which Rufus explained was a dig at Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst, who apparently wrote a mean-spirited song about Rufus’ friend Kick Kennedy (yes, of the famous Kennedy family) after only just meeting her. It was an odd moment in a way, and also one that showed the class gap—both musically and otherwise—between a Midwestern indie darling like Conor Oberst and the fortunate, coast-residing piano trouboudar. If there were an indie music TMZ—and Pitchfork is close—it would have been a newsworthy moment.

Near the end of Rufus' set he brought back his sister Lucy to the stage to join him for a few tunes. But this time she was not Lucy, but "Liza Minnelli," and brought with her a fun-spirited, comedic presence to the stage. After joining him on three songs—"Me and Liza," "April Fools," and the fan favorite "Gay Messiah"—"Liza" left the stage and gave Rufus back to his adoring audience where he would play four more songs before his encore.

The encore included his stunning rendition of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," a song that very few artists deserve to cover. Rufus proved again that he deserves it, giving the proper weight to Cohen's heavy-handed lyrics. He then ended the night with "Poses," a song that marks the very beginning of his now storied, eclectic career. When all was said and done, one thing was clear: Rufus is always welcome in Minnesota. 

Set List:

"Grey Gardens"
"The Maker Makes"
"Out of the Game"
"Dinner at Eight"
"Treat a Lady"
"Les Feux d'Artifice t'appelle" (Final Aria from Prima Donna)

Feat. Lucy Wainwright Roche as Liza Minelli:
"Me and Liza"
"April Fools"
"Gay Messiah"

"Going to a Town"
"I Don't Know What It Is"
"Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk"

"The Art Teacher"
"Pretty Things" (w/ Lucy Wainwright Roche)

13000 Zoo Blvd.
Apple Valley, MN 55124

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Ryan Jasurda's picture
Ryan Jasurda