21 August 2007

Jazz Hands, Americana, and MTV

When your passion — hell, your life — revolves around music, there’s nothing more exciting than seeing one of your favorite artists in concert. Put two faves on the bill, and you know you’re in for a memorable evening. Kick off that evening dining with two great friends, and it’s golden.

So that was me last Monday evening — Rufus Wainwright and Neko Case at the Tabernacle, with a preshow dinner with FBB Scrivener and his lovely wife.

I’ve seen several concerts at the Tabernacle with the Scriveners, and we now have a routine: dinner before the show at Ted’s Montana Grill. I got there first and sat at the bar. The corner of my eye couldn’t help noticing the loving caresses the woman next to me was enjoying, so I glanced over at the dovies … and came face to face with original MTV veejay Alan Hunter! (Yeah, I’m easily excited.) I tried “accidentally” brushing his hand to get MTV cooties, but I couldn’t do it without appearing creepy. It’s probably creepy anyway that I wanted MTV cooties, isn’t it? I also wanted to do the beep-beep dance from David Bowie’s “Fashion” video (Mr. Hunter appears in it), but didn’t want to embarrass the Scriveners.

Okay, the brush with mini-greatness ended, so it’s on with the show. One of the downsides of being a slack blogger and waiting a week to review a concert is you can’t remember all the songs performed and some of the highlights. But I’ll try.

Neko Case

Let’s get the important part out of the way first: Yes, boys, Neko looked hawt. This isn’t the best photo (I own Digital Camera 1.0), but it will give you boys a hint o’ Case. She wore a short black dress, long red hair tumbling over her shoulders, and three-inch Mary Janes:

See the legs? That’s Neko.

The best surprise of the evening was one-time Atlanta Kelly Hogan (the red skirt) backing Neko on vocals. The biggest disappointment was the length of Neko’s set: your basic 45-minute opener.

Neko sounded good, although I’ve seen her livelier on stage. If memory serves, she performed “Maybe Sparrow,” “The Tigers Have Spoken,” “That Teenage Feeling,” and “John Saw That Number” — in all, maybe eight or ten songs.

I expected to see her later in a star-studded encore … but the end of the night was better than expected. I’ll get to see her again at the end of October when New Pornographers hit the Atlanta stage.

Rufus Wainwright

I am smart enough and lucky enough to see Rufus twice before — as Roxy Music’s opening act in July 2001 (he worked his own merch table, and I hugged the wee adorable one) and two summers ago at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Both shows were fabulous, so I knew I was in for an evening.

And what a perfect evening it was.

Rufus hit the stage with star power — resplendent in a red-striped suit, baubled to the nines — and went straight into “Release the Stars.” The Tabernacle was originally a large church in downtown Atlanta and it’s a beautiful building, but the acoustics aren’t the best unless you’re sitting in the center (I was standing to the side, near the stage). Rufus’ voice, however, soared and filled the room. Lord, does he have a voice. I tingled.

Rufus opening with "Release the Stars"

He dedicated the first set to Karl Rove — “so long, fatso!” He was chatty, he was funny, he was adorable. He told us his grandmother was from Tifton (about 180 miles south of Atlanta), which means I get to claim Rufus as one of my Georgia boys (yeah, I'll stretch it for him). It was a great first set, ending with the wonderful “Between My Legs.”
Fargo’s Michael, I had one of your moments. Rufus didn’t sing any of my very favorites — no “April Fools” nor “Foolish Love,” not a note from “Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk” (a theme song of mine), not even “One-man Guy” — nevertheless it was still an amazingly phenomenal show. (“amazingly phenomenal”? Someone, please, get me a thesauraus.) I wasn’t disappointed — I walked out thrilled and giddy.

Rufus and the band took a break … and then, YES! He came back on stage wearing his lederhosen (I’d kept fingers crossed for this costume change), pronouncing “A man in lederhosen singing Judy Garland tunes — God, I’m so gay!” Not many people can pull off lederhosen, but Rufus can.

Who else can pull off the leiderhosen look?

Another great set, including one of my favorite songs — “A Foggy Day in London Town” (I sing it Ella style, while he Garlands it) — and another Judy tune.

The set ended with “14th Street,” each member of the band soloing off the stage. The coolest part of the number was the banjo player was the last to leave the stage — and his banjo solo rocked.

And then came the encore — a set that thrilled this fag-hag heart. I love acting out this set (and I’ve done it for friends maybe six times since the show ended); I hope my written retelling does it justice.

Rufus came back wearing a big, fluffy white robe, sitting down at the piano to play “I Don’t Know What It Is” and “Pretty Things.” He ended this set with his rendition of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” his sister Lucy backing him (I was hoping for Neko, but Lucy sounded perfect with her brother).

I know many of you consider Rufus’ version of “Hallelujah” to be the definitive cover — but, much as I love Rufus, I still prefer Jeff Buckley’s heartbreaker.

And then came The Moment I Was Waiting For.

Rufus dolling up for his closing number

A stagehand brought a chair to the edge of the stage. Rufus sat down, looked at us, and put on sparkling earrings. A bracelet. Reached down to slip on a pair of black heels — now we see the black sheer hose —the crowd goes nuts. The band comes back, perfectly attired in black suits. Rufus walks to the back of the stage, his back to us … puts on that jaunty black hat … the robe falls to the floor, revealing the buttoned suit jacket ... spins forward — and Judy Garland is alive again!

Check out Rufus' Garland'ed gams!

What a number! Jazz hands and dancing! Rufus belting “Get Happy” and “Gay Messiah”! Fan-damn-tastic. Those of us who braved the post-midnight hour got what we came for: a bit of music, a bit of theater. I can't wait until Rufus' Carnegie Hall performance of the Judy Garland concert comes out this fall on DVD!

If he's coming your way, don't miss the show. Don't get the wrong idea. Rufus isn't a gay novelty act; "brilliant" and "talented" don't do him justice. If you love clever songs and a great voice, get thee to the ticket booth.

Haven’t read enough? Grabbing Sand posted a great review of Rufus’ show, and Frank at That Truncheon Thing wrote a nice piece about A Fine Frenzy, the opening opener (we missed her while I was Hunter-gawking) — so click over to read their reports.

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At 8/21/2007 09:11:00 PM, Blogger Dale said...

Both acts should hire you Beth. I would have wished for more Neko action too but it sounds like Rufus put on a great show. Buckley's Hallelujah is phenomenaler, I agree. :-)

At 8/21/2007 11:05:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds like a great show! I, too, had the pleasure of enjoying Rufus back in the days he played smaller venues and was a real great cabaret act.

I'm a fan of his Hallelujah, but, also appreciate John Cale's cover and the Cohen original. My favorite of all is this version by Allison Crowe

At 8/21/2007 11:16:00 PM, Blogger justacoolcat said...

mmmmm hint o’ Case.

And that Rufus is one talented and funny fella.

At 8/21/2007 11:18:00 PM, Blogger Moxie said...

Was Rufus' cover of "Hallelujah" featured in a movie recently? For some reason I can hear it rattling around in my head...but I can't see what's on the screen.

I love his contribution to the Moulin Rouge soundtrack but haven't listened to much else of his work...but I'm sure my favorite Atlanta girl blogger can help remedy that situation, hint hint hint.

(Oh, and I pretty much like everything from the Friday mix tapes so far! Still have to listen to the Green Monkey mixes, though.)

At 8/21/2007 11:58:00 PM, Blogger Artful Dodger said...

Ack..I think I need to move where you're at. You get all the cool concerts. We never get that in SATX. I'm so jealous. ^_^ I can't even get tixs to Austin City Limits. And the best concerts are almost always in Houston or Dallas. I can't believe you bumped into MTV royalty. Ok not royalty but you know. How cool is that? I'd think I'd act goofy too. And you're not a slacker blogger. We love all your posts.

At 8/22/2007 07:27:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

DALE: I would kill to be part of Rufus' camp. What campy fun would that be!

ANONYMOUS: I think I'll be catching Rufus shows for as long as he performs. I'll check out your preferred "Hallelujahn."

JUSTACOOLCAT: I thought that hint o' Neko would drive you boys wild.

MOXIE: You know, it may have been used in a movie. Send me your e-mail address and I'll sample Mr. Wainwright for you.

ARTFUL DODGER: Next time you get wanderlust, you should really consider moving my way. I tried to get Austin City Limits Festival tix, too, but I heard it sold out.

At 8/22/2007 11:58:00 AM, Blogger Lucy said...

I met Rufus Wainwright, at the airport no less. He was surprisingly cool. And his voice is to die for, specifically when he's singing!

At 8/22/2007 12:42:00 PM, Anonymous gifted typist said...

That wainwright family is so interesting. Do you like Martha's stuff and Loudon's?

At 8/22/2007 12:45:00 PM, Blogger Doc said...

Wow! Any show with a banjo solo is worth the price of admission! Great review!


At 8/22/2007 01:44:00 PM, Blogger anandamide said...

A solid double bill.

I'm with you on Buckley's Hallelujah being the definitive one, although (to my shame), I haven't heard Rufus do it...

At 8/22/2007 05:43:00 PM, Blogger BeckEye said...

Sounds like you had a good time. I just can not get into Rufus Wainwright though. I've tried. Can't do it.

I kind of dig Neko Case, but haven't listened to enough of her stuff to form a worthwhile opinion.

At 8/22/2007 05:53:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

LUCY: Lucky you! I think I frightened him with my hug. And welcome to the blog.

GIFTED TYPIST: Love Martha. Love Loudon. Love Kate and her sister. Love BFF Teddy Thompson. I want to be invited over for Christmas Eve dinner.

DOC: That banjo solo was a-maz-ing!

ANANDAMIDE: I'll be sure to put Rufus' "Hallelujah" on a future mix tape.

BECKEYE: Well, he's no Glenn Tilbrook — but you gotta love Rufus' baubliciousness.

At 8/22/2007 06:03:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

Nice review Beth, It's especially interesting since he did much the same show my way not that long ago to just compare the order and choices within sets. The costumes sounded identical.
AS you make clear, he's a great performer, terrific backup musicians, and it's hard to believe any one can sing that loudly and clearly that long (not always a good thing:} but still quite a talent)

At 8/22/2007 06:05:00 PM, Blogger pistols at dawn said...

The Washington Post had an article this week talking about "Redheads Who Rock" as a shameless excuse to talk about the fact that Ms. Case and the Rilo Kiley lady are both hot.

That's all I got out of the article, anyway, along with the increasing disappointment that they're both the indie versions of Amy Winehouse: everyone keeps saying how amazing they are, and when I finally hear them, they're only all right, I guess.

At 8/22/2007 08:31:00 PM, Blogger lee said...

Beth -I do hope that you'll post a nice long review of the Crowded House concert after you go. You are in for such a great time :).

At 8/22/2007 09:11:00 PM, Blogger kfluff said...

I JUST found RW, and I can't even remember how. But I have been walking around singing "Rules and Regulations" with aplomb, and calling him my boyfriend. Sigh. BTW, the video is up on YouTube, featuring a comment that calls it "the gayest video ever." Amen!

At 8/22/2007 10:33:00 PM, Blogger thirdworstpoetinthegalaxy said...

I envy you and your concerts more by the day. I've been listening to Neko and Rufus for about three years now (though especially the latter) -- most recently picked up Fox Confessor, and can't imagine seeing them TOGETHER.

Sorry to say though that I only just realized, with this post, that RM swings "that way." Not that it matters, per se. But it does mean I apparently haven't been paying very close attention.

At 8/23/2007 07:22:00 AM, Blogger Beth said...

CHANCELUCKY: I guess his show is so elaborate he must rehearse and pretty much give the same show. But it's so worth seeing, isn't it? Damn, I love his voice.

PISTOLS AT DAWN: Poor Pistols. I like both Neko and Jenny Lewis/Rilo Kiley — but I can see how they wouldn't be everyone's cup of tea. For the record, I love Amy Winehouse, too; she nails that 60s soul vibe.

LEE: I think the show is Sept. 12, so come back later that week for the Crowded House review.

KFLUFF: I gotta see the video! I want Rufus to be one of my best friends.

THIRD WORST POET: Rufus is pretty open about being gay, which is why I brought it up. He may play it up more in Atlanta since we have a big gay population and he really plays to his crowd.

At 8/23/2007 10:57:00 AM, Blogger Splotchy said...

moxie, perhaps the movie you're thinking about is Shrek? It's kinda weird -- they feature Hallelujah in the movie, but it's the version by John Cale. However, the version of the song on the movie's soundtrack album is by Rufus.

At 8/23/2007 11:44:00 AM, Blogger Bubs said...

Sounds like a great show. A friend of mine just travelled to Nashville to see Rufus at the Ryman Theater, and is already trying to find a way to Milwaukee for his show there next week.

At 8/23/2007 05:41:00 PM, Blogger pistols at dawn said...

I do want to say, however, that I adore your continued appreciation of live music and music in general. I don't know what's happened to me, but suddenly, I listen to like two songs a day and then think, "What's on NPR?" So good on you for not being a boring old sellout like me!

At 8/24/2007 12:44:00 PM, Blogger New and Used Records said...

I think Neko thrives with a longer set time, but she just is a fabulous live performer. I have not had the joy of seeing Rufus, but hearing about it from you and Barbara tells me that I should one of these days.

At 8/24/2007 03:13:00 PM, Blogger mellowlee said...

That Rufus has got himself some LEGS :O)

At 8/24/2007 08:33:00 PM, Blogger jewgirl said...

this is beyond fabulous. I am so jealous!! what a flawless evening. jazz hands.

I know this is a stupid question... did you ever see queen in concert? if so, do you have pics and a review? where can I find it on the beth of coffey?

ps: love the mtv cooties. hahahaha.

At 8/26/2007 12:21:00 PM, Blogger Barbara Bruederlin said...

How fabulous! I am so glad that you got to experience the lederhosen, but the robe and the disrobing really take the cake. Bless his little heart.

I think that Kelly Hogan wore the exact same outfit in Calgary.

Fabulous review! I was right there beside you.

At 8/28/2007 12:16:00 PM, Blogger Beth said...

SPLOTCHY: I have the John Cale “Hallelujah” somewhere, too …

BUBS: I would LOVE to have seen the Ryman show!

PISTOLS AT DAWN: I think the world needs us both to balance it.

NEW AND USED RECORDS: GO! And you’re right about Neko; she needs more than 45 minutes. She deserves more than 45 minutes.

MELLOWLEE: Doesn’t he? I’d love to have those gams.

JEWGIRL: Never saw Queen in concert, sadly.

BARBARA: Glad that we two cool chicks caught that show!

At 8/31/2007 04:18:00 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Wow... Rufus and Neko together! This I am jealous of...


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