Alex Grech's blog

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Why Rufus is good for your soul

The Old Vic is not normally the venue for an eight-piece band and four nights of sell out concerts – you only have to look up at the gods and the massive crystal chandelier and wonder whether the insurance applies to a wall of sound. But there is nothing normal about Rufus Wainwright (or ROOOOOFUUUUUUS) as the burly guys in the boxes insisted on screaming.

You have to experience a Rufus concert to understand how sublime, funny, outrageous, clever, unique an artist this man is. Gifted with a voice to make any mortal’s heart shiver, Wainwright’s music is a mix of jazz, pomp, ballad, soul, rock, blues. He is also the campest, funniest of performers. Someone who is in your face, takes incredible risks with the patter patter and the heavy breathing down the microphone and then dives into a sublime piano solo.

Five minutes into the show, Rufus gets up from his piano stool and grimaces. ‘Gee, I have sweat running down my buttocks’ he frowns, patting his striped posterior. ‘At least, it feels like sweat. I hope it is.’ The gays in the stalls whistled, everyone else hooted. This was a bastion of regal English theatre, for heaven's sake! 'Let's do some rock and roll. At the Old Vic... just don't break anything'. He does a costume change after six songs, and comes back in lederhosen. As everyone shrieks he shakes his head and says 'I know. Just before they ran off to the mountains. Oh, by the way.. it definitely WAS just sweat.'

No, Rufus is not Liberace for the 21st century. He does hover dangerously close to pastiche, sometimes. But there's always the music and the complex orchestration and that voice. Rufus at the Old Vic is one of those rare moments, when you watch an artist realising that the peak they aspire to is just there, within their reach. And Rufus reached out. Cappella singing without a microphone. On-stage cross-dressing to emerge as Judy Garland crooning a foggy day in London town. Laughter, pathos, fun, wickedness rolled into one.

Anything I write will sound like a pastiche. You cannot write about or picture where music can take you to. I just know that last Friday, for two hours plus, I was transported to a place where nothing else matters.