With a name that suggests testosterone levels in excess, and a demeanour that would out-Quentin Quentin Crisp, Rufus Wainwright took possession of Vicar St's cavernous stage from the get-go. Unlike his previous visits here, where he's called most of the shots, this tour is very much a family affair. His mother and aunt, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, were welcome and comfortable co- conspirators in what was a defiantly ragged mlee, while his sister, Martha Wainwright, and cousin, Lily Lankin, simply added to the delicious raw edges of the evening. In fact, Martha was the real discovery of the night, her smokehouse vocals and belly-punch lyrics delivering an unexpectedly sharp counterpoint to Rufus's lush delivery.
This was a night that bore more kinship to a front-room singing session than a formal concert. As Kate pithily remarked, going on the road en famille presents its own challenges but it saves a fortune in therapy. And even the most cursory listen to the cross- generational vocals was proof positive of the evolutionary nature of music: the second generation of Rufus and Martha basked in a vocal confidence and nonchalance rarely enjoyed by their mother and aunt, whose vocals have always tended to tread in shallower waters, where their shared weakness could be kept to a minimum.
Rufus soared skywards, scaffolded by his clan, his voice as open and as formidable as a Verona diva's, particularly on the new material, Vibrate. Oddly though, his delivery metamorphosed into a nasal whine once he went solo, with nothing more than the drama of the piano to lean on.
Kate and Anna McGarrigle (or "the girls", as Rufus referred to them) were in playful mood, enjoying the banter and the memories of such heartsongs as Talk To Me Of Mendocino and I Eat Dinner.
Anna's daughter, Lily Lankin, lent nervy vocals to her grandmother's favourite, Alice Blue Gown, but Martha's chutzpah lifted the entire affair whenever it threatened to lapse into maudlin territory, particularly on her self-penned Don't Forget.
Five voices sharing the same gene pool, augmented by Geoff Hill's double bass, add up to one of the most organic gatherings to have been witnessed in Dublin in years. Despite the ragged set-list, with members leaving and returning to the stage with distracting frequency, this was a night to remember for its full-bodied emotions, for Rufus's unapologetically effete mustering of his troops, for their divine reading of Hard Times Come Again No More, and for the high-camp potential they finally delivered to Thomas Moore's ode to war and death, The Minstrel Boy.