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.
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.
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.
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.
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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