Rufus Wainwright has never been one to mince words about his opinions, but comments the Canadian-born, New York-based singer made at a concert in Minneapolis were too much for one trumpeter.
According to Minneapolis newspaper the Star Tribune, Wainwright was performing alongside the Minnesota Orchestra on Saturday night. During the second set, Wainwright reportedly sat down at his piano, and introduced "Going to Town," a Juno-nominated fan favourite that includes the line, "I'm so tired of you, America."
But before the song began, he said he had refrained from talking politics at recent shows, but that he was "a little in shock over what happened last night" — referring to the U.S. Senate vote on the GOP tax plan.
"It's a call to arms," he said. "We have to fight for this country."
But even before Wainwright finished speaking, trumpeter Manny Laureano "conspicuously rose up from his seat in the back row of the stage, swung his arm in an exasperated gesture, put his horn down and walked off toward a rear exit." The conductor and the other musicians showed no reaction and the show continued as planned.
Reached by the Star Tribune the next day, Laureano complained that Wainwright "mocked" the performance of the French version of "O Holy Night." (He reportedly joked about the awkward translation from French to English, then explained that he was required to do a Christmas song.)
"He's an angry dude that seems to have life all figured out, not the kind of guy we need to look to for philosophy. I found it to be beyond the pale of what that evening should be about. It's a time of the year we're supposed to all come together."
After the performance of the song, the crowd gave Wainwright a standing ovation.
Meanwhile, Laureano has yet to hear whether he will be disciplined for his actions, but he recognized that his employer may not take kindly to him storming out. "Obviously my contract says I'm not supposed to walk off stage during a performance," he said.
On Monday afternoon, the Minnesota Orchestra released a statement defending Wainwright's right to express his views.
"It doesn't happen very often, but we honour the fact that guest artists will sometimes offer politically-minded comments as part of their performance — especially in the case of an issues-oriented songwriter like Rufus Wainwright," the statement read.
"We believe Saturday night's audience knew what to expect from Wainwright's performance. We also understand that our musicians might politically disagree with an artist; we're not aware that a musician has previously walked offstage in this way, but Manny's brass colleagues stepped up in the moment and carried on with a great performance for the audience, which is our priority."