Rufus Wainwright | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

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Rufus Wainwright

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Rufus Wainwright's last record, 2001's Poses, was a paean to hedonism, chronicling his appetite for junk food, cigarettes, and sex. But this summer Wainwright announced that he was simplifying his life and making his way back from what he described to the New York Times as a trip to "gay hell." His new album, Want One (Dreamworks), leaves no doubt that he's a soul in recovery: although he's wearing a suit of armor on the cover, the picture somehow manages to project naked vulnerability, and the songs are correspondingly tender and revealing. On "I Don't Know What It Is," Wainwright wrestles with the acceptance of what life brings, singing "I am on a train / Going God knows where to." Other songs address his penchant for overindulgence: in "Movies of Myself" he yearns for "A love that is longer than a day," while in "14th Street" he turns a new apartment into a metaphor for self-renewal, singing "To 14th Street where I won't hurry / And where I'll learn how to save, not just borrow." His personal quest for limits sounds especially heartfelt in "Want," where he croons, "I don't want, no I really don't want / To be John Lennon or Leonard Cohen / I just want to be my dad / With a slight sprinkling of my mother." Ironically, his new rejection of excess is couched in the richest arrangements he's used to date: producer Marius de Vries (Bjork, Massive Attack, Madonna) surrounds Wainwright's gorgeous pop melodies with burnished brass and billowy strings. The treatment suits Wainwright's melodramatic instincts but buries his loose, drawn-out phrasing on some of the subtler tunes. I won't be surprised if these benefit from the stripped-down sound of a touring band. Martha Wainwright opens; the show is sold-out. Saturday, December 6, 7:30 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield; 773-472-0449 or 312-559-1212.

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