[Photo by TIFFANY YOON]
1. He’s Got Miles And Miles of Style
Dressed in clingy cranberry trousers, brown sparkly shoes tied up in bows and a cream blazer with a ruby flower broach on the lapel, his flopsy bangs shorn to Hugh-Grant-in- Four-Weddings-And-A-Funeral-length, Rufus looked hale and healthy and so happy together. Noting the balcony crowd bearing down upon him from all sides, he declared: “I feel like I’m on trial…and I’m winning the case.” The jury of his peers would acquit him handsomely, awarding him two standing ovations by the night’s end. More importantly, his swooning woman of a voice has come a long way, baby, and never sounded better. And his vibrato remains a staggering work of heartbreaking genius.
2. It’s What White People Were Doing Last Night
Rufus is for lovers: Boys who like boys, girls who like girls, boys who like girls and girls who like boys. Young, old, everyone in between. Basically anyone who’s ever had a heart break apart in their hands and learned the hard way that you can jigsaw back together, with patience and the glue of time, but it will never be the same again. It’s like bypass surgery or Cupid’s arrow — it may not kill you, it might even make you stronger, but it still hurts when you lay the wrong way. These are his people. And Saturday night, they were all his Valentines.
3. He Shoulda Been The Elton John Of Now
Coulda, shoulda, woulda. You could say the music biz failed him, or the business model that made Elton ‘Sir Elton’ shit the bed by the time Rufus finally got up to bat. All true, of course, but more relevant is that Rufus simply doesn’t write music with that kind of vast scope of appeal. He’s a chic boutique in a department store world fast going out of business. This he already knows. As of late he’s working on a setting-Shakespeare-sonnets-to-music project for the Germans, and an opera for the English, he told the Kimmel crowd. His goal, he announced, is to become an ‘important’ composer, so he can get fat and grow a beard and that will be, like, fine.
4. The Days Of Wine And Poses Are Over
Songwriters get good when they start experimenting with what they can add to make their songs better. Songwriters get great when they start subtracting things to make their songs better. Last time he came through town — about five years back, at the Tower, if memory serves — he was backed by a full compliment of musicians, recreating the elaborate gilded filigree of his albums, that only served to distance him from the things that really matter: his voice and piano. Last night, barring a series of lovely duets with his sister Martha, his only accompaniment was himself. Which was even better, because even all by his lonesome Rufus contains multitudes.
5. He Is Like A Bird On A Wire
As the saying goes, the point of the journey isn’t the destination, it’s the getting there. Or to paraphrase Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glen Ross: Always be arriving. Which is another way of saying that all of this — the industry misery, the commercial crapouts, the rococo arrangements, the fainting couch histrionics, the meth and the madness — happened for a reason: To establish the line of demarcation between what is true and what is permitted. Leonard Cohen knew that when he wrote “Hallelujah” — and Rufus acknowledged as much with his gorgeous encore version of said song. Which is why I think that out of all the reasons to love or hate Rufus Wainright, the best one is this: Like a bird on a wire, like a drunk in a midnight choir, he has tried, in his own way, to be free. — JONATHAN VALANIA
JOHNNY CASH: Bird On A Wire
WIKIPEDIA: “Bird on the Wire” is one of Leonard Cohen‘s signature songs. It was recorded 26 September 1968 in Nashville and included on his 1969 album Songs from a Room. In the 1960s, Cohen lived on the Greek island Hydra with his girlfriend Marianne (the woman depicted on Songs from a Room’s back cover). She has related how she helped him out of a depression by handing him his guitar, whereupon he began composing “Bird on the Wire” – inspired by a bird sitting on one of Hydra’s recently installed phone wires, followed by memories of wet island nights. He finished it in a Hollywood motel. Cohen has described “Bird on the Wire” as a simple country song. MORE
ALSO: British pop singer M.I.A., who performed at the Grammy Awards last Sunday despite experiencing labor contractions, has given birth to a baby boy, she said on her MySpace page. The unnamed baby was born on Wednesday, and is “healthy, fine, beautiful and the most amazing thing ever on this planet,” according to her Web posting on Saturday. MORE
PLUS: R&B star Chris Brown, who was arrested last weekend on suspicion of attacking a woman widely believed to be the pop star Rihanna, said on Sunday he was “sorry and saddened” about the incident, and was seeking counseling. The 19-year-old performer of such U.S. chart-toppers as “Run It!” and “Forever” has been in hiding since the alleged fracas with his girlfriend in a rented Lamborghini. MORE