Rufus Wainwright and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary AB, January 13

Rufus Wainwright and the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra Southern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, Calgary AB, January 13
Photo: Chris Gee
Photo: Chris Gee
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Acclaimed singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright returned to Calgary last night (January 13), collaborating with the Calgary Philharmonic Orchestra on a range of songs from his lengthy career. Wainwright's charisma and talent, coupled with the stately orchestra playing, made for a strong and unique performance.
 
The Philharmonic started off the night with "Scherzo" from A Midsummer Night's Dream, showcasing the orchestra's incredible precision that would serve to heighten the drama of Wainwright's songs later on.
 
The first half of the show found Wainwright focusing on his 1998 self-titled album and early 2000s material. Highlights included the melancholy of 2004's "The Art Teacher" and Wainwright's story about one of the times he met David Bowie. (He and Bowie had been talking in a crowded backstage area, and when Wainwright had excused himself to use the washroom, Bowie accompanied him so they could continue their conversation.)
 
Post-intermission, Wainwright dug deeper into his more recent catalogue, including a performance from his 2010 project, Five Shakespeare Sonnets. "Tiergarten," from 2007's Release the Stars, was majestic, complete with the orchestra's addition of gentle strings and harp ornamentation. The performance reached its climax during "Going To a Town," which Wainwright somewhat regretfully, and to the amusement of the audience, dedicated to Donald Trump. Again, the Philharmonic's strings swooped in to heighten the song's powerful honesty.
 
The expressive nature of Wainwright's piano playing was a real joy to witness live, and although his vocals faltered occasionally, mostly they soared above and beyond the skilled instrumentation that filled up the room. The Philharmonic and Wainwright meshed perfectly, complementing each other and engaging audience members throughout the performance.