Rufus Wainwright (and Paul Simon) LIVE!

Ever since I found out that my parents had bought me a ticket to see Paul Simon’s performance, I’ve been quietly excited. Quietly, because I was also a bit cynical about going to my first concert – what’s the point of going to a live concert if you can’t see the people performing? Isn’t it better on CD because of the quality and the ability to tweak mistakes?

Well, yesterday evening was the big night, and I have to say, it was awesome! Although I think I have a crick in my neck from squinting down at the stage (there were no screens).

First of all, let me just say, I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO VECTOR ARENA. I had no idea that the stadium seats are at such a steep angle! I went with my mum, who had seen Simon perform in Paris when she was 21, and was more excited than I was by far (really), and when we got out to the stairs that would take us up to our seats…well, I happened to glance down. Not a good idea. I was slightly dizzy and a bit tremulous as I gazed down row upon row of seats that seemed almost vertical to each other, and imagined leaning over and falling  all that way down…

I got over it after a while, but it was rather disconcerting.

Second of all, the average age of the people in the stadium was 50+.  I swear, my mum and I made a game of looking for someone younger than 25 while we waited in line – mum found a teenage boy, and I spotted a girl, but they both had the air of having been dragged by their parents. There were more people within the range of 25-50, but they appeared to be mostly romantic pairs, and again, they were clearly a minority. On the other hand, there were hundreds of people who looked to be about the aged of my grandparents, in groups, by themselves, in pairs…of all ethnicities, shapes and sizes. In the row above us, a one legged man sat, having braved the stairs, and two rows down from us a one eyed, spectacled man was enjoying the show.

Now onto the show:

What really struck my mother and I was how empty the stadium appeared at first – it was about half-empty! However, all through Rufus Wainwright’s performance, people trickled in all over the stadium, flashing lights and torches. Then, after the interval, the stadium really became full, as people who had bought tickets but only wanted to see Paul Simon began turning up.

Personally, I think this approach is rather silly, and a bit rude as well. You’ve bought the ticket – why not go along and enjoy the concert from the start? Who knows, maybe you’ll like the opening act? For example, my mum and I had no idea who Rufus Wainwright was before this concert, but both of us really enjoyed his portion of the show – both his friendly, smooth banter and his amazing piano playing and singing (mum couldn’t believe how much air he could hold in his lungs!). Also, you’ve paid to come and see these singers perform – isn’t it a lack of respect not to turn up?

But that’s my opinion. If you have another one, or feel like you need to legitimise this type of behaviour – feel free, as I’d be really interested in hearing your thoughts.  A justification my mum came up with was that people are still at work, so they can only make it to the second half of the show…but that doesn’t seem very realistic, as not many people work until 8:40 pm.

So, Rufus Wainwright (the wolf, in Hebrew, which was how mum referred to him the entire concert). He just strode up there onto the stage and started playing…this amazing piece of piano. And then he added his voice to it, melodious, zany lyrics which I didn’t really understand (I have a big difficulty in figuring out song lyrics), creating a lilting, Canadian-accented harmony. After this, he introduced himself, said how pleased he was to be there, general exclamations over the beauty of New Zealand etc, saying “this is the end of the world in all the best ways”, and said that the day before, he had gotten “all of 5 minutes at Piha”.

Then he said “I’m a little sad, because this is my last day of the tour, so I’ll sing a sad song. About gay cowboys.” (approximate quote) And broke into I’m Going To A Town. I didn’t quite catch that last bit, so had to stretch up and ask mum what it was he said, and then try to decipher how this gorgeous song, full of beautiful pronunciations of America and all about going to a town that’s already been burned down, had anything to do with gay cowboys.

It’s still a bit of a mystery to me 😛

After taking a swig of water, Wainwright thanked everybody that had come on the tour with him, and stated that he had his aunt with him, because he’d wanted to take his mum, but she’d died recently from cancer, so he took his aunt instead…

Then he sang Montauk. Now, my mother told me that the song was about Rufus Wainwright’s recently dead mother…which led to a lot of confusion as to whether his father had been gay and that was why his parents had divorced, or what??

But, it turns out from this interesting interview, that the song is about his daughter:

Wainwright had a daughter, Viva, last year. “We’d talked about it for many years,” he says of the platonic conception with a friend, Lorca Cohen, daughter of singer Leonard. “Lorca wanted to be a mother but didn’t want to be married.” And Wainwright?At the time his mother was terminally ill with a rare form of cancer, clear-cell sarcoma. “Lorca’s clock was ticking and my mother was dying. I did actually ask my mother what her thoughts were on this, and she said in no uncertain terms: ‘Rufus, you must!'” Viva was born in February 2011, just over a year after his mother died. In one track on the album, Montauk, Wainwright imagines his daughter coming to the home in Montauk, New York, where he lives with his boyfriend, Jörn Weisbrodt, Hamburg-born creative director of an arts centre in the Hamptons.

recent- ish interview from the Guardian

This makes lyrics such as these make MUCH more sense

"One day you will come to Montauk 
And see your dad wearing a kimono 
And see your other dad pruning roses
 Hope you won’t turn around and go"

Then Wainwright talked a bit about meeting Jeff Buckley a couple of weeks before he died, and about doing his version of Hallellujah, which is also something that Jeff Buckley was famous for…

I’ve also sung a version of Hallelujah – with a carolling group. The version we sang is by far the shortest I’ve heard since, with only three verses. The Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright versions have two additional verses, while the first version, the Leonard Cohen one, is a full 7 verses long.

Rufus Wainwright sang splendidly.

He ended with the very (cute? No that’s not the word…how would you describe this song?) Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk, which he lost a little bit at the very, very end, but made a funny and very graceful pick up.


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