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Rufus Wainwright


Considered one of the greatest vocalists and songwriters performing today, Rufus Wainwright vacillates between contemporary and classical notions of pop music with an enviable ease. So it makes sense that he’d want to perform an evening of his best work with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The Marcus Center may not be the Pabst Theater (where he recorded his live album Milwaukee at Last!!!), but Wainwright loves the city whatever the venue.

At the Marcus Center in Milwaukee. Tickets are $17 to $107. For more information visit mso.org.

The Sets List: Meat Puppets, Dirty Heads, Jeremy Messersmith and more

Meat Puppets

8:30 p.m. Aug. 28 at Club Garibaldi, Milwaukee. $13. clubgaribaldi.com.

Is there a better way to celebrate the end of summer than by listening to some “face-melting” rock ’n’ roll by the Meat Puppets? Better be safe and pop into Club Garibaldi for this cowpunk pioneer’s first appearance at the venue in two years. The group — best known for an appearance with Nirvana on MTV Unplugged shortly before Kurt Cobain’s death, but a reputable force in their own right — has a history of rocking the venue hard, and their 2015 appearance should be no different.

Dirty Heads

8:30 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Barrymore Theatre, Madison. $27.  barrymorelive.com.

Dirty Heads has been an established reggae rock band for several years, but they took a big shift with their 2014 album Sound of Change, introducing more alternative rock and hip-hop influences than ever before. It paid off — their lead single, “My Sweet Summer,” picked up heavy rotation on indie and mainstream stations alike, only growing in popularity as summer turned to fall and listeners grabbed onto whatever reminders of warmth they could. At the Barrymore, they’ll prove they’re more than just a catchy single. Dutch funk rock band Chef’Special opens.

Jeremy Messersmith

TBA Sept. 8 in Oshkosh and Sept. 9 in Milwaukee. $20. jeremymessersmith.com.

There’s small, intimate concerts, and then there’s Jeremy Messersmith’s Supper Club tour. The indie pop artist from Minneapolis is traveling around the country, playing a series of musical potluck shows at random homes. He has two Wisconsin gigs coming up, in Oshkosh and Milwaukee, and that’s all we can tell you about them. Get tickets, and you get the host’s address and other important details. What happens next? That’s up to you.


9 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Orpheum Theatre, Madison. $25, $30 day-of-show. madisonorpheum.com.

On their last two records, LP3 and LP4, electronica duo Ratatat (Mike Stroud and Evan Mast) got experimental, trying out different genres, instruments and motifs. Magnifique, their first album in half a decade, gets back to their roots: guitar driven, synth-supported electronic rock. It’s been wildly enjoyed by fans of the band in live performance, so this Orpheum show comes with high expectations.

Rufus Wainwright

8 p.m. Sept. 12 at the Marcus Center, Milwaukee. $17 to $107. mso.org.

Considered one of the greatest vocalists and songwriters performing today, Rufus Wainwright vacillates between contemporary and classical notions of pop music with an enviable ease. So it makes sense that he’d want to perform an evening of his best work with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. The Marcus Center may not be the Pabst Theater (where he recorded his live album Milwaukee at Last!!!), but Wainwright loves the city whatever the venue.

Fearless | Martha Wainwright brings her optimistic new spirit to Milwaukee

Singer/songwriter Martha Wainwright waxes domestic when asked what would constitute her perfect day.

“Fixing things or using your hands can make me very happy,” says Wainwright, 36, the youngest child of a ferociously musical – or perhaps just ferocious – family. “Maybe making some curtains, planting some seeds or baking bread. I guess being on the road all the time makes me miss these tasks and accomplishments.”

Wainwright’s answers reflect the relatively new sense of peace and stability that she and husband Brad Albetta, who produced her first recordings, have found since the 2009 birth of their son Arcangelo. Wainwright’s attitude today stands in marked contrast to a past filled with domestic discord and emotional neglect. A writer who dedicates her song “Bloody Mother Fucking Asshole” to her father is not projecting a harmonious family life.

“BMFA” was released as part of a five-song EP in 2005.

Wainwright’s father is American musician Loudon Wainwright III, and her mother is the late Canadian folk singer Kate McGarrigle. Out performer Rufus Wainwright is her brother. Growing up in a household of accomplished musicians was not an arpeggio of high notes, according to Wainwright, especially when it came to her relationship with her father.

“For most of my life Loudon talked to me in song, which was a bit of a shitty thing to do,” Wainwright told The Guardian newspaper in 2005, “especially as he makes himself come off as funny and charming while the rest of us seem like whining victims.”

Loudon’s unfortunate choice of songs about his daughter’s teen years further eroded the relationship. 

Wainwright spent her 14th year in New York with her father, who had long since left the family, and it was a year that proved difficult for both of them. She was touring with her father when he performed “I’d Rather Be Lonely,” a song about a man’s unsatisfactory relationship with a woman. She hadn’t realized the song was written about her until Loudon announced it from the stage, a move that to her crossed the line of decency. Loudon’s song “Hitting You,” written about a time when he hit his daughter, broadened the divide between them.

However, “BMFA” may have started a period of catharsis for Wainwright. Her subsequent albums were a little less sharp-tongued, but no less insightful about the songwriter and those who influenced her musical growth and talent. 

“I’m not exactly sure where the talent comes from, but I am certainly inspired by my folks as well as my brother,” she says. “A part of songwriting comes with being original, and I wanted to have something different in my music from that of my family’s music.”

Wainwright’s songs differ her brother’s, but both artists draw on their experiences growing up in the Wainwright-McGarrigle household. Despite feeling less favored than Rufus as a child, she says, the years have strengthened the relationship between the two siblings.

“In many ways, my brother is my mentor,” Wainwright says. “I certainly see his career as a model for the one I would like to have, and I respect and admire his work ethic as well as his confidence.”

She performs with him whenever possible, although their tours will just barely miss each other this spring. Martha performs in multiple regional venues March 21-25, while Rufus arrives for concerts April 11-14.

She and Rufus will perform together several times this summer and the siblings are planning an album of McGarrigle’s songs recorded live at various tribute concerts over the past few years. The opportunities to perform together have taken on a new meaning in recent years. 

“This is a tough business and we have to stick together to help each other out,” she says. “We perform more and more together since our mom died. I think we need each other more.”

Kate McGarrigle was diagnosed in 2006 with clear-cell sarcoma, a rare form of cancer that affects the connective tissues. She appeared at a concert with Rufus and Martha at London’s Royal Albert Hall six weeks before she died to raise money for the Kate McGarrigle Fund, domiciled at Canada’s McGill University Health Centre, to raise sarcoma awareness. She died at age 63 on Jan. 18, 2010, three months after Martha gave birth to Arcangelo.

McGarrigle’s final song “Proserpina” pays homage to the Roman goddess of springtime, with a refrain that calls the goddess home to her mother. Wainwright performed the song on her 2012 album, “Come Home to Mama,” a tribute to her mother.

McGarrigle’s passing was difficult for Wainwright, but she feels a new optimism both as a person and an artist. She continues to tour and look for ways to create happiness in her increasingly domestic life.

“Now that I have a son, any time with him is the best time I have,” she says. “I think playing with him in the sand and running on a lawn would make me very happy right now.”

Where’s Martha?

Fans willing to make the drive will have ample opportunity to catch Martha Wainwright over the next few days:

March 21 The Cedar Cultural Center, Minneapolis

March 22 Shank Hall, Milwaukee

March 23 High Noon Saloon, Madison

March 24 The City Winery, Chicago 

March 25 The Ark, Ann Arbor, Mich.

What about Rufus?

Rufus Wainwright will also visit the upper Midwest, just barely missing the chance to perform with his sister. Here’s where you’ll find him:

April 11 The Pabst Theater, Milwaukee

April 12–13 Fitzgerald Theater, St. Paul

April 14 Old Town School of Folk Music, Chicago

UPDATE: Sandy forces cancelation of marriage equality concert

UPDATE: Storm forces cancelation of Freedom to Love Now! A Concert for Marriage Equality.

New York City’s Beacon Theatre was to host the first Freedom To Love Now! A Concert for Marriage Equality on Oct. 30 but Hurricane Sandy forced a cancelation.

The concert will take place in the spring.

Performers on Oct. 30 were to include Thomas Bartlett aka Doveman, Rufus Wainwright, fun., Beth Orton, The National, Toshi Reagon, They Might Be Giants, John Cameron Mitchell with Stephen Trask, Justin Vivian Bond and others.

Bartlett recruited the musicians for the concert, which was to benefit Freedom to Marry, the nonprofit that led the campaign for the Democratic Party to include marriage equality in state and national platforms and was instrumental in lining up a coalition of elected officials to support gay marriage.

The concert, according to a press announcement, also was to celebrate President Barack Obama’s endorsement of marriage equality this year and encourage people to support the marriage equality campaigns at the state level.

“The key to winning the freedom to marry is raising our voices, opening hearts, and moving minds,” said Evan Wolfson, Freedom to Marry’s founder and president.  “Freedom to Marry  is happy to be a part of this concert and support such a diverse, talented group ofperformers who are giving their brilliance and time to this important cause.”

Singer and guitarist John  Flansburgh from They Might Be Giants said, “I can’t recall being in better company for a better cause. It is going to be a night to remember.”

fun.’s Jack Antonoff added, “We can’t wait to be a part of this amazing event with some of our favorite artists and raise money for an incredible organization that is working hard for a better America.”

Bartlett said he hoped other musicians in other areas would also organize benefits for marriage equality and includes a “how to” on the website.

On the Web…


Rufus Wainwright returning to Milwaukee’s Pabst Theatre

Rufus Wainwright returns to The Pabst on Aug. 10 for a special performance with his sister Martha Wainwright sponsored by the Wisconsin Gazette.

Milwaukee is one of 13 new cities in Wainwright’s recently announced summer tour, which begins in Philadelphia on July 25.

Brew City is one of the gay icon’s favorite cities and The Pabst is one of his favorite venues. In 2009, Wainwright recorded his live DVD “Rufus Wainwright: Milwaukee at Last!!!” at The Pabst, calling it “a magical place.”

“That theater … has been a real milestone for me in terms of both maintaining a stronghold in middle America and also bringing back a kind of European, sophisticated sensibility that I think once existed in America, throughout the country, which that theater embodies,” Wainwright told WiG in a 2010 interview.

A singer, songwriter and composer, Wainwright has recorded seven albums of original music as well as numerous tracks on compilations and film soundtracks. He has also recorded more than 80 music videos.

Earlier this month, Wainwright released a music video for the title track of his new album “Out of the Game,” released on April 23. The video features an appearance by Helena Bonham Carter.

Last year, Wainwright became a father when Lorca Cohen, daughter of Canadian icon Leonard, gave birth to his daughter Viva Katherine Wainwright Cohen. She is being raised by Wainwright, his partner Jörn Weisbrodt and Cohen.

Martha Wainwright is a folk-rock singer and songwriter who got her start singing backup vocals for her brother. Since then, she’s gone on to a successful recording and performance career of her own.

Visit Wisconsin Gazette’s booth at PrideFest Milwaukee 2012 to register to win free tickets to Wainwright’s Aug. 10 show at The Pabst.

Rufus Wainwright returns to The Pabst

Multi-talented out performer Rufus Wainwright has returned with “All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu” (Decca), his first studio album of new material since 2007’s “Release the Stars.” He’s been keeping busy professionally in between, releasing a pair of concert albums and working on his opera “Prima Donna.”

Personally, Wainwright has been dealing with his mother Kate McGarrigle’s illness and subsequent passing earlier this year. The melancholy and emotional “All Days Are Nights” is reflective of this loss. Possibly Wainwright’s least accessible release, it is nevertheless well worth the investment of time and psychic energy. A sort of mourner’s prayer, the album also finds a way to celebrate life, which is much to the credit of his bountiful talents.

Gregg Shapiro: I want to begin by offering my sincerest condolences on your mother’s passing.

Rufus Wainwright: Thank you.

GS: I had the honor of interviewing her for “The McGarrigle Hour,” the 1998 disc on which you also performed. It’s being reissued in a vinyl edition. Are you involved with that project?

RW: Well, I am in spirit and historically. But that’s really Anna McGarrigle’s territory at the moment. I’m really happy that it’s coming out. I think it’s a fantastic album. I do intend, along with Martha (Wainwright’s singer/songwriter sister), to further my mother’s legacy down the line, for sure. But at the moment, we’re just trying to get our act together in general (laughs). There is a void. But it’s great that that’s coming out.

GS: “All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu” and your previous release, the live album “Milwaukee at Last!,” are released domestically on Decca. Does being on Decca give you license or freedom to pursue your more classical side, as you do on “All Days Are Nights”?

RW: I think that it definitely ensures that the album will be made and that there won’t be too much interference, which I did experience a little bit of before on Geffen and Interscope. It was such a pop label. But on the other hand, a huge major label is a huge major label. When you get a project out with one of those companies, you do have a lot more power and it goes a lot further. I think at the end of the day, it works out to be about the same. You’re on a nice little label where you can do what you want, but they can’t push it as hard as someone who has more might.

GS: “All Days Are Nights” includes both a song from your opera “Prima Donna” and three selections from your collaboration with Robert Wilson. With so much from which to choose, how did you go about selecting what to include on “All Days Are Nights”?

RW: That group of songs, “All Days Are Nights” – they’re all flowers from a garden that I’ve been growing for at least 20 years. … I had to squeeze my artistic sensibilities to the max in order to come up with this rarified mix of material. There wasn’t a lot of sifting through songs. I knew that these were the songs of a lifetime, so I had to put them all together.

GS: “Martha” and “Zebulon” are among your most deeply personal compositions. What was it like exposing yourself through your work?

RW: Probably due to the fact that I am a musician first and secondly a lyricist, my lyrics have to be really, really potent. They come with an ounce of blood, shall we say (laughs)? I think I get some really good ideas and they’re most effective when they’re closest to my personal life and there’s a certain truth that shines through there. I have to do that in order to maintain my ability as a songwriter.

GS: Has the raw, emotional tone of the material on “All Days Are Nights” had an effect on your live performances?

RW: If anything, it mirrors what’s really going on in my soul. I’m in heavy-duty mourning, and when I get out there and I have to master these treacherous compositions and get from one end to the other without being cute, because that’s what I’m doing with this album. It’s a very serious show. I’m just going through the motions of grief, but artistically.

GS: One of the stops on your concert tour includes a return to The Pabst Theater, where “Milwaukee At Last!” was recorded. How was that venue chosen for the live CD and DVD – and did you always intend to return again to perform?

RW: Yes! That theater, specifically, has been a real milestone for me in terms of both maintaining a stronghold in middle America and also bringing back a kind of European, sophisticated sensibility that I think once existed in America, throughout the country, which that theater embodies. It’s a magical place. Also, I have to say that the owners of that theater are just wonderful – they’re a great family. That really has to be supported in this day and age.

GS: You gave a memorable performance in the 2005 movie “Heights.” Are there any upcoming movie roles?

RW: (There is) nothing set yet. But if they come to me with a good offer, I may accept. I’m not saying that I don’t want to act. But I would say that it is a little bit spooky how many music people do go into that field. I guess there’s a reason for it. But I’m battling opera at the moment.

GS: Battle on!

RW: Hollywood will have to wait!

Diva, diva, diva, diva

Out of his five studio albums, it’s interesting that Rufus Wainwright chose to release a live album recorded during the tour for his fifth, “Release The Stars.” But eight of the songs on the CD portion of the live double-disc CD/DVD set “Milwaukee At Last!” (Decca) derive from that disc. Wainwright sounds genuinely taken aback at the enthusiastic reception he receives on show opener “Release The Stars” and the positive response continues throughout, from the powerful “Going To A Town” to the poppy “Rules and Regulations.” His spot-on rendition of “If Love Were All” offers a taste of his acclaimed recreation of Judy Garland’s “At Carnegie Hall” concert and “Gay Messiah” is nothing short of the perfect finale.

Anyone who has ever had the pleasure of attending a Wainwright concert knows it’s as much a visual experience as an audio one. So the inclusion of a DVD, which expands on the CD is well worth the cost.

Barbra Streisand’s new album “Love Is The Answer” (Columbia) and the Madonna compilation “Celebration” (Warner Brothers) are two strong arguments for springing for the deluxe edition option. “Love Is The Answer” succeeds on many levels, not the least of which is the age-appropriate material.

In the extensive liner notes for “Love Is The Answer,” Streisand mentions some of the songs — “In The Wee Small Hours of the Morning,” “Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most” and “Here’s That Rainy Day,” for instance — for which this project was perfect. And she’s so right. But she also works wonders with “Make Someone Happy,” from which the album’s title is drawn, Luis Bonfá’s “Gentle Rain” (sung in English) and Jacques Brel’s “If You Go Away (Ne Me Quitte Pas)” (sung in French and English). And there’s the heartbreaking drama of “Where Do You Start?” and “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes.” All of these tracks get sumptuous orchestral arrangements, but to get the full, raw impact of the material, I strongly suggest the essential second disc of “quartet arrangements.”

While I wholeheartedly recommend the Madonna anthology, I have quibbles, beginning with the set not being chronological. How hard can it be to put the songs in order of release dates?

With the exception of one song, Madonna’s first hits disc, “The Immaculate Collection,” is represented in full on “Celebration.” But her second hits package, “GHV2,” which covered the Madonna of the 1990s, gets the short shrift. In terms of movie music, someone saw fit to include “Beautiful Stranger” from “Austin Powers” and “Die Another Day” from the James Bond flick of the same name, but excluded “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” (and, thankfully, “American Pie” from “The Next Best Thing”). And why replace “Deeper and Deeper” and “What It Feels Like For A Girl” with “Sorry” and “Miles Away”?

In terms of the new material, the suitably named Paul Oakenfold titular track collaboration lives up to its moniker, while the Li’l Wayne collaboration “Revolver” doesn’t go anywhere. That said, “Celebration” serves its purpose of representing Madonna’s recording career, her far-reaching influence and her substantial contribution.

Usually, I’m the first to complain about Mariah Carey’s unnecessary and obnoxious vocal gymnastics. She’s no Whitney — and neither is Whitney these days. But after slogging through “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel” (Island), Carey’s latest exercise in shameless excess, I was relieved to land on the closing track, a remake of the Foreigner classic “I Want to Know What Love Is.” Sure, it’s as schlocky and schmaltzy as it gets, but Carey is actually singing a song with a melody and lyrics that have some degree of substance.

Carey treats the material with as much respect as she can muster and it pays off. There’s much substance to be found on what precedes it, including “Up Out My Face,” “Candy Bling,” “Standing O” and “H.AT.E. U.” But someone in Carey’s camp must be aware of her following in the gay community, which explains the bonus disc of four dance remixes of the “Obsessed” track. The disc also includes the “Obsessed” video and “video-remix.”

As for the boring and redundant sound of the 17-track disc itself, the blame lays squarely with “producers” and “songwriters” C. “Tricky” Stewart and Terius “The-Dream” Nash. “Kindly take your quotation marks and go away.”