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Originally published March 14, 2008 at 12:00 AM | Page modified March 14, 2008 at 11:16 PM

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Concert review

Rufus Wainwright sang for Seattle fans Thursday night

Rufus Wainwright has one of pop's best and Seattle's favorite voices, but audiences around this city also love his theatrical stage shows...

Special to The Seattle Times

Rufus Wainwright has one of pop's best and Seattle's favorite voices, but audiences around this city also love his theatrical stage shows — which have featured surprise drag appearances — and eat up his engaging, catty personality.

Thursday night at The Paramount, Wainwright performed an 80-minute set sans the fantastic band that joined him a few months back at The Moore. He played solo, accompanying himself on piano and acoustic guitar for a nearly sold-out theater that would have loved him no matter what he did.

But on the third song of the evening, he slipped a bit. Reaching for a high note, his voice went noticeably flat.

"Ugh, that was terrible," he said, stopping in the middle of "Vibrate," a delicate fan favorite. Instead of communicating disappointment, the audience laughed, warm and unworried. Wainwright laughed, too, then flopped his hair and gestured to the crowd in a friendly way that said, "I just screwed up, but I know you'll forgive me."

And they did. A few more times.

Voice, piano, guitar: each instrument missed some notes, but even though songs were momentarily halted during the concert, it's hard to say those notes were really "missed."

His singing and piano/guitar playing were still completely impressive. Wainwright's voice is a gift from another planet, and he made clear efforts to hold impressive notes longer than usual, as if apologizing for the flubs. If that was indeed his intention, it was unnecessary: The audience was behind him the whole time.

It helped that he's a good talker. Funny asides ("God, I have to take off these ridiculous clogs — I was just trying to relate to you people") and celebrity anecdotes characteristically lightened the mood (it just so happened he was in Hollywood last night, playing this next song for Reese Witherspoon in her house).

The crowd was casually dressed young and middle-aged couples. "Gay Messiah" got an especially warm reception, as did "The Art Teacher," the encore which followed a standing ovation. Oddly, he did not perform Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," something he almost always does.

It was a barely below-par showing, but in Seattle's eyes, Rufus can do no wrong.

Andrew Matson contributes to www.raindrophustla.blogspot.com and www.206proof.com. Reach him at matson.andrew@gmail.com.

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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