Monday, August 20, 2007

What have you been listening to, reading, watching?

Rufus Wainwright [Bonus Update]
I've been late in giving a review of this show Tuesday at the Ryman. I was truly excited about seeing him live because: his songs are beautifully, skillfully arranged and orchestrated, full of surprises, fabulous melodies (They Might Be Giants said of their own musical ambitions that they wanted to "rescue melody from the forces of evil." That comes to mind when listening to Rufus' tunes.), and harmonies that are at once complex and transparent, not to mention his trademark voice. Those were the things that took me there - to experience them live with other fans, and to see how he translated them on stage (especially the songs with quite dense orchestrations.)

Those things were perfectly done. The performances and live arrangements were pitch perfect - just different enough from the recording to give me reason to listen closely.

The other thing about Rufus is - if you didn't know - he's gay. His music has become more and more open about that, and his determination to be proudly out strikes me the same way that his determination to be openly dramatic and bold in his songwriting and orchestration does: it makes me proud to support him. To be sure, with his voice and talent, he could probably make lots more money with a different image and approach. Anyway, another point of interest going in to the show was to see, here in the bible belt, just how - for lack of a better phrase - gay he was going to be. Will he leave out his songs with more overtly gay imagery? What will his interaction with the crowd be like?

I knew he had at least a moderate comfort level when his first communication was to express disappointment that almost all the noisy cheerers - the biggest fans they put in the front 2 rows - were girls. All question was removed, though, when he took an intermission to change into an outfit that I can only describe as leather lederhosen, to the delight of the crowd. And I suppose he was ridiculing my asking when his encore attire - a long white bathrobe - was for the last few songs removed to reveal a handsome skirt suit. He then exchanged his shoes for a pair of high heels while talking to us (it was like Mr. Rogers on the cross-dressing channel), added some sparkly earrings and applied a healthy layer of lipstick to artfully sing a couple of Judy Garland numbers with piano accompaniment, while the rest of the all-boy band became a troupe of well-coordinated 40s-style dancers.

The vibe in the crowd for that part was a kind of stunned, ecstatic pride. I doubt anything like that (and little that talented) has ever graced the Ryman stage. With admiration I can say it was easily the gayest thing I've seen in a long time.

[Bonus: Here's a tidbit of lyrics from one of my favorites - even though he rhymes well with well - on Release the Stars, "Going to a Town":
Do you really think you go to Hell for having loved?
And not for thinking everything you've done is good?
After soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood,
I'm so tired of America.

I may just never see you again or might as well.
You took advantage of a world that loved you well.
I'm going to a town that has already been burnt down.
I'm so tired of you, America.]
Weekend Box Office
1. Superbad
2. Rush Hour 3
3. The Bourne Ultimatum
4. The Simpsons Movie
5. The Invasion

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