Wednesday, December 8, 2010

From Carnegie to the Calvin, all the makings of an historic concert. Rufus Wainwright closes 2010 tour in Northampton this Wednesday, December 15th at the Calvin Theatre

 This Wednesday, December 15th, Rufus Wainwright performs at the Calvin Theatre in Northampton. This is an emotionally significant period in his life to say the least. Already inclined to living dramatically and processing every moment to its fullest, usually through his music (lucky for us), Rufus is coming to the end of an eventful year. His album “All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu,” which he will perform in its entirety to open the show, centers to some degree around the death in January of Mr. Wainwright’s mother, the great folk singer-songwriter Kate McGarrigle. In the show’s second half, Stephen Oremus, the musical director for Wainwright’s  2006 re-creation of Judy Garland’s 1961 Carnegie Hall performance, will accompany him on piano to  reprise some of those songs including “Do It Again” and “The Trolley Song.” Then Rufus will break out some of his delightful originals and who know what might happen on the tour’s closing night.

This past Monday, Rufus performed at Carnegie Hall (for the second time actually, as he staged Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall concerts there in 2006). This week’s event was attended by Michael Stipe, Lou Reed and Laurie Anderson among others and warranted coverage in both Rolling Stone and the New York Times.  

The New York Times piece concludes, “… the evening’s strongest numbers, in which Mr. Wainwright vigorously accompanied himself, were his own pop songs, the best of which reveal him as a melodic master. Performing them with a robust confidence, Mr. Wainwright was at the top of his game.”

The Rolling Stone piece concludes, “…as Stipe put on his coat near his seat, he told Rolling Stone he was impressed with the gig. "It was extraordinary — it was heart wrenching and beautiful," he said. The R.E.M. singer goes back a long way with Wainwright. "I first saw Rufus in San Francisco perform in a club of about 80 people — just him and the piano."
I had that privilege too. Back in the mid ‘90s when I lived in Los Angeles, I attended a Rufus Wainwright residency at the legendary club Largo on Fairfax Avenue (immortalized in Shawn Mullins “Lullaby.”) It was a month of Thursday nights that led up to the release of his debut album. His intensity on those nights unavoidably brought back memories of seeing Jeff Buckley’s jaw-dropping pre-Grace show at Luna just up the street a year earlier. Both with Jeff and Rufus, I felt I was in the presence of greatness. (Rufus pays tribute to Jeff in his 2004 song "Memphis Skyline" which he will likely play on Wednesday.)  Rufus was stunning on these Thursdays, and exuded the eccentric confidence of someone who would be making meaningful music for the rest of his life. Given the Wainwright family tradition, this is undoubtedly true, and the concert this Wednesday will mark a significant moment in the career of Rufus Wainwright, one that those in attendance may well feel lucky to have witnessed. 

Lucy Wainwright-Roche (with whom Rufus shares a father, Loudon) will open the show.

Reserved seating tickets are available at the Northampton Box Office, 76 Main Street, 413-586-8686 or buy online at  Doors at 7PM. Show at 8PM.

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