Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rufus Wainwright at Radio City

So I wasn't actually planning to go to this concert--I was wishy-washy because I was a little cranky his most recent record --but a rather lovely woman on a forum I frequent messaged me last week to see if I wanted to join her (with an extra ticket to sell to my roommate as well) and I couldn't resist. However I feel about some of his songs, Rufus always puts on a great show and has an appealing stage presence. Combine that with the prospect of going with someone I'd talked to frequently online but never actually met and it sounded like a lot more fun then anything else I was going to be doing. And it was. Fair warning: this isn't an organized or insightful review. I'm sick and cranky today.

The opening act was Sean Lennon whose music sounds pleasant enough to the ear in a thoroughly unmemorable and uninteresting way. Of course, I think if I were John Lennon's son I'd just become a banker or something. Beyond that, is it me or is he always dating models with whom he is totally in love and writing songs?

Anyway, there was a break and then Rufus came on with "Release the Stars" in what is one of the ugliest suits I have ever seen. I mean, just really hideous. It was neon green and black and he'd covered it with brooches, of course. I think when the lederhosen is the better look that's probably fairly telling.

Anyway, after "Release the Stars" he played "Going to a Town" and explained his black-and-white flag backdrop. It was fairly inane and cliche so I feel no reason to repeat it here. Later on in the set he talked a bit about his new project to help the environment, BLACKOUTSABBATH. It is what it is, and while I tend to think that if you need to write a list of ways to help the environment and stick it on your fridge you're not all that likely to follow through, but hey, I'd be happy to be wrong. When he wasn't trying to be serious his banter was amusing as always; it's one of the things that makes going to his concerts so much fun.

As for the songs, I was glad that he played a lot of old songs, songs from the Judy Garland show, etc. Most of the songs he played from Release the Stars were tolerable, and the lack of over-the-top orchestrations live didn't hurt. I still think that "I'm Not Ready to Love" is a spectacularly bad song. "Slideshow" came complete with pyrotechnics which was funny--in a good way--because there he is in lederhosen playing a song that isn't really all that rocking and there are sparklers going off like it's a real rock show.

While the show as a whole was excellent, the end definitely outstripped the beginning.

One of the highlights, as it often is in New York, was getting to see him play with his sister and it came with the not-as-common treat of getting to see his mother perform as well. I was pretty much expecting Martha to be there since she's not touring right now and when they're both in the city it seems more common than not that they show up at each other's shows. Martha was wearing a dress that was more like a blousy shirt, but if I had her legs I might wear that sort of dress as well. Kate was wearing skinny jeans tucked into boots and looked very healthy, which was a relieving change after the last time I saw her sing (2006 Carnegie Hall Christmas show). After performing backups on "Across the Universe" along with Lennon, they sang one of my very favorite Kate & Anna McGarrigle songs, "(Talk to me of) Mendocino." It appears on their fantastic first album from the 70s, and then Kate, Rufus and Martha recorded a version together for The McGarrigle Hour, which is an absolutely lovely CD.
As a sidenote, I drove through Mendocino a few years ago and it's a really lovely spot on the California coast and the nearby Mendocino Botanical Garden is well worth stopping at if you're in the area.

After Mendocino, we got "Poses," which is still the best song he's ever written. He then did that thing he's been doing on tour where he dresses up as Judy Garland to sing "Get Happy" this time with his dancing band members dressed up as nuns. Jeff Hill has been playing bass in Rufus's band since, what, 1998 at least so he must be pretty used to be doing these absurd but audience-delighting things at this point. It's probably fun anyway. He finished off the concert with "Gay Messiah," and his band silly-stringing him at the line "baptized in cum." Which, you know, it's not my favorite Rufus song and I don't necessarily think it stands up to repeat listens, but it's a good way to finish off a show.

So in the end, I'm really glad that I had the opportunity to go. It was a fun night with good company and good entertainment. Which is all you can ask for, really, is it not?

No comments: