When: Wed., Aug. 8, 7:30 p.m. 2012
Rufus Wainwright has called 2012's Out of the Game (Decca) "the most pop album" he's ever made, and given that his recent work—including the full-blown opera Prima Donna—has been increasingly dense and heavily orchestrated, it clearly is his breeziest since his first two records more than a decade ago. Wainwright has a true-blue pop heart and seems incapable of writing forgettable melodies, but his definition of "pop" doesn't overlap much with the rhythm-first fare that dominates the charts. Even the title track, which sounds like it could've been a smash on 70s AM radio, is hardly a trifle—it's the album's catchiest, most immediate song, with seductively humid guitar from Thomas Brenneck of the Menahan Street Band. Wainwright starts out bitterly excoriating current stars ("Does your mama know what you're doing"), then comes around to admiring their energy and ideas—and it's all set to the old-school pop form of verse, chorus, and bridge. On "Bitter Tears" he lets producer Mark Ronson turn on the disco machine, but Wainwright won't change his luxuriant delivery to fit the club-worthy beats, which creates a pleasant aesthetic tension. Wainwright dips into 50s rock, California soft rock, and formalist Brill Building pop, but two of his biggest professed influences are Elton John—the woozy bridge on "Jericho" sounds like something he might've written—and Queen, whose elaborate vocal melodies also use long, zigzagging phrases and rich harmonies. For the band on Out of the Game, Ronson assembled simpatico players from the Dap-Tone family, along with ringers like Nels Cline and Nick Zinner, but the album is never anything less than Wainwright's fabulous show. —Peter Margasak Adam Cohen and Krystle Warren open.