“Saw You in the Dark”: Exploring Rufus Wainwright’s Emotional Vulnerability in Fan-Captured Live Performance Videos


  • Stephanie Salerno Roosevelt University


A Victorian-inspired, deplumed, black mourning gown; a video of a kohl-painted eye, staring, blinking, and weeping; and a baritone voice mingling with solo piano are the audio and visual touchstones of Rufus Wainwright’s 2010 live tour of All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu. Using performance analysis of fan-captured performances posted on YouTube, this article argues that digital viewership queers, or alters, the audience’s experience, thus empowering spectators to engage with the emotional vulnerability, grief, and genre-bending of Lulu. For a work like Lulu, performed as a song cycle and without official music videos or a professional live recording, fan videos fill a void, at once cutting a major expense of the artist/label while empowering the audience to capture and share what they find to be meaningful online. In this study, four fan-captured live Lulu performances reveal moments of elision, uncertainty, and the blurring of the artist and the artist’s persona within digital “third space.” Through this lens, persona and grief are read within digital viewings of Wainwright’s live performances while framing online spectatorship as a queer practice of meaning-making.

Author Biography

Stephanie Salerno, Roosevelt University

Stephanie Salerno received her PhD in American culture studies from Bowling Green State University in 2016. Her research interests span affect and trauma studies, gender performativity and persona in popular music performance, and representations of difference in television and film. She currently works in Enrollment and Student Services at the Chicago College of Performing Arts of Roosevelt University. She can be reached at salernosas@gmail.com.