Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Hallelujah to Hallelujah: two NYC concerts that were too hot to Handel

It was said that when Handel was trying to write the famous "Hallelujah Chorus," he spent days in solitude, barely eating. At last, with tears streaming down his face, he finished the piece, claiming he had seen heaven itself and God before him.

You know, I really don't doubt it. In a small but beautiful Presbyterian church in New York City, it still causes the heart to stir, and tears to come. No wonder the queen stood up. 

That was really the first Christmas-y thing I've done this year, and I wouldn't have kicked off the season any other way. Amidst one of the busiest and consumeristic places in the world, I still experienced peace. 


Number 1 on my bucket list (now written out in tangible form) is to see Rufus Wainwright in concert. When Moulin Rouge came out 9 years ago, my absolute most favorite song on the album was "Complainte de la Butte" by Rufus. After listening to that song over and over again, I looked him up and thus begin my love for his music. 

Tonight, number one on my bucket list was fulfilled. And in Carnegie Hall nonetheless! 

It was really like two shows in one. The first half was crazy. I know I overuse that word a lot, so let me explain: 

Before the show started, an announcement was made that we weren't allowed to clap at all until Rufus had completely left the stage after the first half. When the lights went out, the stage door opened, and out walked Rufus in a black dress with a long train (similar to a black wedding dress) and a black feather collar. He glided towards the solo grand piano in the middle of the stage and proceeded to play the entire "Songs for Lulu" album without stopping. In the background on a large screen was a video playing of a single eye, that was completely surrounded by black makeup, opening and closing at a really slow speed. Every once in a while a tear would fall from the eye. 

His performance of the album itself was beautiful. A few of the songs were Shakespeare sonnets that he set to music, and the rest were original pieces. It really really showed off his talent. There were a few things that surprised me about seeing Rufus Wainwright in person: 

1. He's old? I always imagine him at the age of 30 (and looking like this). Never aging I guess. But now he's 37. You don't look like that three years away from 40. 
2. He doesn't open his mouth. Rufus can sing. Loudly. But at those really climax-y loud high belting-it-out moments, his mouth is barely open. Honestly, it kinda weirded me out. 
3. Rufus is extremely extremely talented at piano. I knew he played his own piano parts in concert, but I didn't realize how good he really is. And singing while playing these complex pieces, too! I really think it was just as much a piano concert as it was singing. 

After intermission, Rufus was back to his, what I assume to be, usual self. He joked around about the first half being super intense, he was wearing a very Rufus-esque purple velvet blazer and orange striped tie, and he won me over even more by singing almost every one of my favorite songs, including some Judy Garland covers. 

He had a few surprises for the audience: 
1. The opera he wrote/composed will be performed in NYC's opera house. 
2. His dad and sister were in the audience.
3. His sister, Martha Wainwright, sang a few duets with him.
4. He's engaged, and his fiancee was in the audience as well. 

The most disappointing song of the evening was the famous "Hallelujah" originally made famous by Jeff Buckley (whom Rufus tributed by singing one of my favorites - "Memphis Skyline"). First, he choked halfway through the song and had a mini coughing fit. I mean, I really only felt bad for him. It wasn't like I was offended or anything. It's really just too bad for him. But his sister sang one of the verses of the song, and although she was awesome as a complimentary singer for him, she didn't sound so good on her own. 

As I was just thinking about my favorites to include on here, I realized that everything was my favorite. But if I had to pick, it would be the songs I had never heard before. One was from his new "Songs for Lulu" album: "The Dream," and another one was a duet in French that he and his sister sang together. I don't know the title of it, but I'll try to locate it later. 

Rufus Wainwright in concert is now in the top 3 of my most favorite concerts. I don't know what place it's in yet, I need to make a list of the concerts I've been to and get back to you on that. 

But I wasn't disappointed. At all. In fact, it exceeded all expectations even though mine were super high. I actually didn't expect him to sound so good. His voice is either hit or miss with people, but I think in concert, everyone would like him. I think he's one of the few artist whose voices sound a lot better and purer in concert than on a CD. 


Kayla said...

Handel, he's so hot right now.

Kevin said...

Adrienne, this is amazing. Your bucket list is getting OWNED. I still want to hear in even more detail though.