Rufus Wainwright started his fifth album, "Release the Stars," with a particular creative mission in mind.
And the lush, intricately arranged final product wound up sounding nothing like it.
"I had a whole other goal when I started the album, which was to make a very pared-down, intimate, black-and-white record with just Rufus and the piano or something," says the 34-year-old son of fellow singer-songwriters Loudon Wainwright III and Kate McGarrigle.
"But then, of course, it was all dashed once I moved to Berlin for awhile and was overtaken by this wave of German romanticism, and we went the other way. It was kind of like the album [i]demanded[/i] to be made in a certain way. No matter how much I wanted to tone it down, it was like, 'No, you're not gonna skimp on me now!' "
The more complex music has made its impact on Wainwright's live shows, of course. Unlike the stripped-down performance at January's Ann Arbor Folk Festival, his return visit to the Michigan Theatre with an eight-piece band will be a more Herculean effort, with plenty of songs from "Release the Stars" -- which was executive produced by the Pet Shop Boys' Neil Tennant -- some "old favorites" and a smattering of Judy Garland tunes from his recent recreation of her famed 1961 Carnegie Hall concert.
"I know that I'm able to sing (the new songs), which I really wasn't sure would be the case when I recorded it," says Wainwright, who's next project is a full-blown opera, "Prima Donna. "A lot of these songs are extremely challenging in terms of range and also length, so I was secretly kind of horrified that I would collapse on stage.
"But somehow, through healthy living and plenty of sleep and lovely people around me, I kind of pull it off, so that's very reassuring. It's a big, heavy, satisfying two hours of music."
Rufus Wainwright and the Magic Numbers perform at 7:30 p.m. Friday (August 26th) at the Michigan Theater, 603 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor. Tickets are $45 and $32.50. Call (734) 668-8397 or visit www.livenation.com.
Send your thoughts and comments to