On Monday night In the old-world, French salon-style Rose Bar in New York City, Rufus Wainwright sat at the piano, by a roaring fire, and unveiled the songs from his forthcoming album, All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu. For most of the material, it was the first time he had performed it live. “On the tour, I’ll have practiced,” he joked. But the fact that the Canadian-raised, vocally gifted singer-songwriter occasionally started a complicated passage over again only added to sense of intimacy. Besides, the sweeping, classically-inspired piano arrangements on Songs For Lulu seemed like they would pose a challenge to anyone — consider this his Rites of Spring.
Though he promises to perform the album in it’s entirety, without talking in between, when he goes on tour this year, Wainwright took a more relaxed approach at the Rose Bar. In between reciting Shakespearean sonnets, he sang a song in French, sang an ode to New York, channeled the voice of Lulu (“a dark, brooding, dangerous woman who lives within all of us”), and plaid two emotionally-gripping songs that mentioned his late mother Kate McGarrigle. Introducing one song, a hallucinatory ramble called “The Dream,” he joked that he had been dreading this moment for three years. “It’s possibly impossible to play live.” It wasn’t.