Rufus Wainwright, Radio City Music Hall, New York, 15-02-08

Being in New York is a pleasure, I don't need an excuse to come - I've done it for a gig before but mostly I just love being here. Rufus doesn't feel like a New Yorker in many ways - he grew up in Montreal and his mum is Canadian - but he does live here so it was somewhat of a homecoming and the last band show of the tour. In barely a month he's off again, doing solo shows all over the place, but this felt like a full stop on the Release the Stars tour. He's just been to Australia, New Zealand and, before that, Japan. He played the Wiltern in LA on Tuesday. And yet here he was, energy level sky high, at Radio City - one of the most visually stunning venues I've ever visited. A huge old-fashioned theatre, it doesn't lend itself to pop concerts but the warm atmosphere made the difference. The audience was very mixed - I saw parents with children, senior citizens, screaming fangirls, couples of all kinds, a good smattering of top shelf celebrities (Lou Reed, Yoko, Gloria Steinem, Alan Cumming, Vincent Gallo and probably more I missed) and just about half the gay men in New York. I sense that some are fans of him and not his music, they're charmed by the personality and probably don't know all the songs. But most know every song, myself included now. When I saw him in October at Hammersmith I knew only a few songs and now they're like old friends.

I took my seat, 20 feet or so from the stage, and watched the place fill up with New York's trendiest. On came Sean Lennon. I enjoyed his set, he's an excellent guitarist and there's a gentle, ethereal quality to his music but I can't say I'd buy it. He's got more talent than I thought he did and his nervous, shy stage patter works well, to a point, but I couldn't say he impressed me hugely. His most stunning impact is that of a visual one, given his remarkable resemblance to his father. I suspected I might see him again later in the evening. A short break and just before 9pm the curtain went up and the familiar stage set had appeared - black and white Stars and Stripes flag, with brooches, two mirror balls and place on stage for 7 musicians. On they came, opening with title track Release The Stars. A roar went up as he walked on, wearing the loudest, actually luminous, yellow and black suit jacket and trousers, covered in brooches. The band were wearing similar, but not yellow, suits and brooches too. The show has become familiar but it's still very fresh and the songs filled the huge expanse of the venue, with its two mezzanine balconies, easily. Four RTS songs later and everyone was settled, he'd cracked a few jokes ('There should be a countdown machine in Times Square telling us how many moments to go til Bush is outta here!') and I loved every minute of it. Seeing him live is a singular experience. After a year of touring, worldwide, and gigs most days I was amazed at his energy level and his flawless voice. Not a note out of place, every big note high and strong, but with great tenderness on the quieter songs. The emotional quality to his voice is unlike anything I've heard before. I've never been in the presence of an artist who can make you weep with a song then laugh until you hurt with a bit of between song banter. Usually I get to artists when they're dead or ancient, or just starting. This time I've jumped in 5 albums in when he's hit his creative stride and is approaching his mid 30s. That's some impeccable, accidental, timing. He told us about a new annual environmental venture he's doing BlackOutSabbath, where the idea is for everyone to just switch off their appliances, heating, everything that needs electricity, for 12 hours in June.

Before the customary interval we had the last fan participation edition of RTS song Between My Legs. A fan, who sent in a video via You Tube, will take the spoken word bit at the end. Though moving stiffly and looking nervous before his bit, the guy who was up there came to life when the moment required it and delivered the lines like a Shakespearian actor. So far, so regular, but still thrilling, show. Second half began with the amazing, complex, Do I Disappoint You and some, what you might call, hits - Beautiful Child and two songs from his Judy show. During my favourite RTS song, Slideshow, we got, at the punch moment of brass coming in, two sets of pyrotechnics, which was a surprise and a visual treat. He hoped we liked them and they didn't look too ridiculous. After that it was a brave move to try Macushla, the Irish folk song, without a microphone. I'd seen him do it, with great success, in London but this was a venue twice as large. I was close but his voice went right past me to the back, if not to the balconies probably. A rousing, loud and hugely well-received 14th Street, about New York of course, closed the main show out. I was starting to get a bit sad that this was about to be over and it'll be goodness knows how long before I can see him live again. Fortunately, the encore was a complete blast and sent me off with a bounce in my step and a grin on my face that still sits there.

Out he came in bathrobe, to huge cheers, and, as I expected, on came Sean. They performed Across the Universe, as they had done so on that same stage a mere three weeks after 9/11 for a Lennon tribute show, and it was... I'm speechless. As a Beatles fan, it's hard for me to top that. A bearded Sean, playing guitar, with Rufus and not only him from family McGarrigle-Wainwright either - he brought out mum Kate and sister Martha to sing back-ups on it too. Unforgettable highlight. Then a folk song with just Rufus, Martha and Kate on guitar - Meducino, a song about New York state. The finale was approaching. He sat on the chair at stage front and got into drag before our eyes - as people howled, wolf-whistled and he winked flirtatiously at all and sundry. Earrings, lipstick and heels on and off we went into a mimed Get Happy. The band were joined by Kate and Martha in their ramshackle but, you could see, enjoyed choreography and all were dressed, not in tuxes as usual, but as nuns! It brought the house down. Then, finally, Gay Messiah. And he was covered with silly string from the band by the end as Gerry Leonard's daughter, around two years old and dressed in fairy wings and ear-protecting headphones, was hoiste up by her dad. The band took their bow as a rain of white pyrotechnic sparks rained down from the ceiling. A standing ovation and he dragged boyfriend Jorn up there for a bow and Valentine's kiss. His last act before leaving the stage, after a filthy joke about the silly string, was to slip over on the mountains of string, regain his balance, with Jorn's help, and bound offstage with applause ringing in his ears. I honestly can't remember *ever* having so much fun at a concert before. Just pure fun. I've had sombre, happy, thrilling, emotional, joyous, profound experiences at gigs. I've been squashed up against strangers more times than I can remember. But seeing Rufus is just tremendous fun.