I’ve already written about my love for Rufus Wainwright here, but since seeing him perform live was number 23 on my Life List, I’ve got to bring him up again.
For my slower audience (let’s admit it, 80% of you): I saw Rufus Wainwright perform live!
So why was this item on my Life List? Well, in short, Rufus is my favorite musician. I am not a very complicated person. Plus, it’s an item relatively easily to achieve, and I need a few of those. I’m not really sure why I’ve never seen him in concert. In fact, I had tickets a few years ago but had to sell them as they ended up interfering with travel plans, and they meant so much to me that I actually remember the name of the complete stranger from craigslist that that I sold them to. He doesn’t tour as often as some other artists, but maybe my ability to put seeing him live on the back burner, despite him being my favorite, came from a fear that he wouldn’t be as good live. In hindsight, perhaps I just wasn’t sure that he’d be a great performer. He comes across as a bit serious . . . and then there was that pre-show email that asked the audience to refrain from applauding until a certain part of the concert, as it would interfere with the performance art aspect of the show. Hmm. I mean, geez, I’m pretentious but . . . wow. Luckily, this was not the case, we were allowed to clap, and I am now so much more impressed by him as a musician and certainly as a performer. He’s engaging, funny, sweet, appreciative, and truly an incredibly gifted musician. Luckily he acknowledged the “no clapping” message self-depricatingly (is that a word?) and told everyone to ignore it, that it was a mistake. Whew.
Rufus is, I’ve gathered, a love him or hate him kind of artist. A lot of people are put off because they hear his voice as nasaly, maybe even whiny. The people who love him, however, hear that voice and it’s a feeling as if you’ve piano strings in your heart and that “nasaly”, ever so slight vibrato, maybe even whiny voice plucks at them, making your entire chest reverberate.* For a fan, that effect is indescribable live. Overwhelming. I think maybe I am affected by the power of live music a bit more than the average person (what, I have a lot of emotions!), but when I see my favorites, it’s like a happy panic attack. Shortness of breath, heart racing, anxiousness. It’s great!
I lucked out because Loudon Wainwright (Rufus’ dad and folk music legend, again, for you slower people) opened for him, making the experience even more Life List worthy. I have to admit that I didn’t listen to much Loudon Wainwright before the movie Knocked Up, of which he performs the entire soundtrack. I love the songs “Grey in L.A.” and “Daughter” from that album, and though he didn’t perform either, I really enjoyed him. They’ve had a pretty tumultuous relationship, and it was so fascinating to see how different he and Rufus are as people and as musicians, but how clearly they inspire and influence one another. When Rufus, in his dandy button down shirt and silk scarf called his dad out to join him on stage in his khaki shorts and t-shirt, he remarked “you look like my son!” Loudon’s musical style, like his wardrobe, is very straightforward, honest. Rufus’s style, like his wardrobe, is much more dramatic and complex, but at the core, they’re both telling the same story. They are both so influenced by family, by love, by history. I’m pretty sure that’s no coincidence. As a daughter who has had some daddy issues of my own, it was really interesting to see them perform separately, so differently, and then together, so perfectly, seamlessly. In fact, I had no idea that one of my favorite songs sung by Rufus, “One Man Guy”, was actually written by his father! They sang that together and it was so wonderful.
The show was a great compilation – a mix of old favorites, things from his newest CD, and lots of fabulous Judy Garland numbers. Life List worthy and wonderful and I’m so thankful that I got to see him finally. If you’re a fan, you must get to a show. You’ll love him even more.
* That piano string thing is good, huh? Yeah, I kind of stole it from James Joyce. Whatever, it’s the only way I can describe it. He doesn’t care, I asked him.