Being Beta

Exercises in the higher banter with One of 26. Elsewhere called 'poet of adland'. By a whipple-squeezer. Find out why being beta is the new alpha: betarish at googlemail dot com

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Capsule: Rufus Wainwright and Judy Garland

World's greatest entertainer

Not, on first glance, the most unlikely resurrection since Ron Atkinson was seen at Kettering Town FC, but instead an act of love and homage. Rufus came (and comes again next Sunday, if you can get returns) to the London Palladium to recreate the concert that recreated at Carnegie Hall last year, Judy Garland's show-stopping epic of 1961 (one of the best-selling live recordings ever).

You could describe it as a case of 'ferocious archeology', or if you are feeling particularly mean, a facile event, as worthless as the Gus Van Sant remake of Psycho. But the night went beyond mere facsimile or reinterpretation.

There was much channeling of the spirit of cabaret, what with artificial crushes by the bar and plenty of digital flashes popping. One of the League of Gentlemen was present, in a just-the-right-side-of-lurid candy-striped suit, while there was a studied informality present in most of the audience. One or two cummerbunds could be spotted, but rightly, Rufus was the best dressed man in the house, although of his two Viktor + Rolf suits, the grey number for the second half was far better than the first act's diamante mustard confection (later claimed to be leopard print) which in some lights made him look like an over-condimented hot dog.

On paper, the night itself was one of a sort of lunacy. Rufus is not yet the great interpreter if the American Songbook a la a Stewart or Bennett. But he is a great interpreter of divadom, and so it proved as, beyond improbability, Judy did start to resonate to the rafters.

The orchestrations had a distinct verve and bite, and the propulsive New York sound was tangible. Rufus was unsure of himself to start with, his phrasing in 'Putting On The Ritz' collapsing. The fast show stoppers were his forte, and he was less able to provider the depth of emotion that the torch songs demanded. Only when he reached for Judy's key, in the the sublime 'Do It Again', did he, and the show, start to shimmer.

It took wing with 'San Francisco' at the end of the first act, where the intertextual notes he provided in-song were gratifying; it was sung with the lusty abandon of all the gay men who have ever played it and vowed to head west.

And then with act two, he stepped it up a gear. He was helped by sister Martha (do family Wainwright do anything on their own?), who came on as a Forties siren, and caressed 'Stormy Weather'. Lorna Luft, the physical link back to Garland, belted her allotted numbers in the traditional Broadway style. The 'Trolley Song' was untouchable, and then, deliciously and movingly, Rufus sat at the edge of the stage for 'Rainbow'; he had himself - and us - in tears.

'Chicago' brought the roof down, and the two standing ovations were inevitable.



Blogger Buzz Stephens said...

Speaking of Judy Garland, there is an exciting and popular new group on Yahoo called THE JUDY GARLAND EXPERIENCE. They have ultra rare audio files, great photo's, lively discussions, and just about the most eclectic bunch of Judy enthusiast's you could ever hope to meet.
There are fans of every age and level of expertise, family members of Judy's, people who knew her, saw her, authors of books about her, people who have made movies about her, and more.
The only thing missing is you. Feel free to drop in and download some free musical rarities or join in on a discussion.
Once you visit our little Judyville you may never want to go home.

8:37 pm  
Blogger TwitchyAcorn said...

Oh Lea was there too. I'll def see it when he comes to HOllywood Bowl this summer. I love him loads..

11:13 pm  
Blogger BetaRish said...

Think it's safe to say I'm more Rufus than Judy, Dan. But thanks for stopping by.

Acorn: Hollywood Bowl? Now that really rocks.

8:18 pm  

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