Rufus Wainwright @ the Church of the Ascension, 5/17/12

Rufus Wainwright is one of those artists who cannot be fully appreciated on vinyl, video or disc. His voice cuts so deep and his range so wide that something tends to get lost in translation. What’s more? Listening to the original studio recordings deprives you of Wainwright’s remarkable – if not altogether sublime – onstage presence … the unmistakable trademark of being born into a family that made its entire living on the road.

That presence was on full display last night, as Wainwright delivered a gorgeous two-hour set in a pre-war gothic church downtown. The cavernous acoustics served him well, especially on brand-new numbers like “Candles” and “Perfect Man” … numbers that rely on textured harmonies throughout.

The main set included one song written by Wainwright’s father, two songs written by his (late) mother, an original about his daughter, and a series of ballads about those closest to him, before winding down with yet another heartfelt nod to his mother in the encore … the closing notes of which actually brought Wainwright to tears.

Somewhere in between, Teddy Thompson offered up some stunning vocals, Mark Ronson sat in on rhythm, and -during one song – Wainwright even donned a cardboard bust of Helena Bonham Carter (a reference to Bonham’s appearance in the video for “Out of the Game“).

The bottom line: After nearly 30 years in the business, Rufus Wainwright is still extremely passionate about his music … perhaps even moreso now than at any other point in his career. He’s got a tight band behind him, a slew of industry heavyweights surrounding him, and a one-year old daughter who’s genetically engineered to turn the music world on its ear someday.

Not bad for a dude who spent the first half of the aughts stone-blind on crystal meth.

Not bad at all, I’d say.

Update: Please do check out this slideshow of pics from the show, courtesy of the Artists Den (All pictures taken by Adam Macchia).

(Keep an eye out for a full-length video of last night’s show at Live From The Artist’s Den)