My daughter loves your son, Kate!
TEL AVIV -- Last Wednesday we were treated by Miriam to Rufus Wainwright at Mann Auditorium. The show was sold out to an exuberant crowd of adoring fans. I will not bother you with my preamble. Here, in Miriam's words, is how it went down.
Where to even begin? It's shows like this that remind me how much I wish I were part of the Wainwright/McGarrigle family. He looked great - love that suit, and I was thrilled to see it make another appearance! - and sounded spectacular. Really, his voice was perfect - one of the best shows I've seen. He hit every falsetto note effortlessly, beautifully. He slipped up a couple of times on lyrics, but recovered seamlessly - and besides, that's what we love about him! I was amazed at his performance considering how jet-lagged I know he is; there's a 7-hour time difference between Israel and New York.
The amazing thing is, I never thought I'd get to see Rufus at all this year. I'm studying in Jerusalem this year, so I expected this to be a painfully Rufus-free year. I did notice a Facebook group called "Bring Rufus to Israel!" but I never thought it'd come to anything. When I discovered that he'd be doing a show here, I couldn't believe the coincidence: the one year that I'm here, Rufus decides to come to Israel! And of course, seeing Rufus definitely eased the pain of missing Thanksgiving.
Part of Rufus' brilliance, I think, is that certain songs take on a completely fresh, magnetic quality when he performs them solo (i.e., "Sanssouci"), and that he revives old songs beautifully (i.e., "Cigarettes And Chocolate Milk," and everything else from that record). It almost seems like he's performing a new song - until you remember that there's a little electric guitar here, some drums there.
And then, a surprise - Kate! She looked radiant, with a great dress and chic new haircut. And she came out [i]barefoot[/i]! She's just amazing. They bantered and chatted; they tried to remember in which key they usually do "If Love Were All;" they tried - and failed - to remember all the words to "A Foggy Day;" Kate corrected Rufus' lyrics to "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" and reminded him that it's "Kate & Anna McGarrigle," not "The McGarrigle Sisters," as he referred to them. Last night as always, it's magical to see the two of them on stage together. [i]Magical[/i].
The Mann Auditorium is a great venue with fantastic acoustics - Rufus even said so himself! The balcony doesn't hang over the orchestra, cramping the theater; instead, the orchestra sweeps gracefully upward to the balcony seats, leaving plenty of open space to be filled by the sound on the stage - perfect conditions for Rufus' HUGE voice.
I managed to capture Rufus' banter in between each song. Here it is:
- Grey Gardens -
"I feel very appropriately dressed for such an - interesting - building (laughter)...Yes, the proper term is, like, 'formal-Jewish' (laughter) - you know, all this pizazz (indicating his suit)!"
- Pretty Things -
- Beauty Mark -
"All right, I know I'm gorgeous, but no more pictures, please (responding to too many camera flashes)!" and "This is my first time in Israel, playing here...I've already put on 5 pounds, eating my way through Jaffa today...I'm a hummus monster...!"
- Nobody's Off The Hook -
"This next song I wrote about a beautiful palace near Berlin called Sanssouci...It started off as an architectural fantasy - well actually, it started off as architecture and then it quickly turned into fantasy: the palace went from being an actual place to my subconscious, where you can eat as much hummus as you like (laughter) and do all sorts of other things which we won't talk about in this very fancy concert hall! Then, of course, there's a moral to the story: at the end of the song you open the doors to the ball and there's nobody there. But I heard that's not the way it is in Tel-Aviv: I heard all the balls are always full (laughter)! So anyway, here's a little bit of austerity for you..."
After a few lines of Sanssouci, he sang the wrong words: "...Gently polishing my - oh, wrong words! Let's start this again...There are these two girls dancing and I..." - and then something about their dancing affecting him like a "normal person..."
- Sanssouci -
"I'm kind of excited to do this song in Israel because you guys are still waiting for your messiah - except for the beard people...So maybe this is who it'll be!"
- Gay Messiah -
"This next song is from my new album, Release The Stars...uh, is that my new album? (laughter) Or is the Judy album my new album? I can't...you know, whatever, they're two separate - things - of this incredible body (laughter)...I have to do that so people won't be disappointed if I don't make a fool of myself (laughter)...So yeah, this one is a sad song (shrug) (laughter)...I'm just trying to confuse you: first I make you laugh, then I make you cry...Then I make you believe!"
- Not Ready To Love -
"So before playing this next song, I just have to preface it with a couple of things: one is that, let's start off by being really really happy and joyful about the fact that Obama won the election! (cheers!) Very very excited about that. But on the other hand, let's be a little bit sad that in America on the same day, there was horrible, horrible legislation passed - anti-gay stuff in California and Florida about gay marriage - which frankly, I'm really not that into gay marriage, personally (applause) - I don't plan to get married, really - well, maybe I'd like the decision, maybe I'd like to be able to, or something, but that being said - in fact, I was once having a conversation with Boy George (laughter), and we were talking about policy and politicians, and somehow we were talking about politicians I like, and I said, 'Yeah, he's pro-gay marriage and anti-death penalty,' and Boy George said, 'Isn't gay marriage kind of a death penalty?" (laughter) - but that being said, I am strongly against any kind of discriminatory or exclusionary words being put in the American Constitution, I think it's terrible, so that's what I'm against (applause) - and also, government legislating your sex life, it's just terrible. So anyway, those are the two things I want you to remember."
And then he launched into Going To A Town - the newly altered version, in which he sings, "I'm not tired of you, America," "After soaking the body of Jesus Christ in blood/I'm so tired of California," "And not for thinking everything that you've done is good/I'm so tired of you, Florida."
- Going To A Town -
Following GTAT: "In a song, once I write a negative comment, it always fixes it and then everything is wonderful in about a year (laughter)...I'm just kidding, I'm kidding - I'm getting the Jerusalem Complex as I'm sitting here on stage (laughter)...but anyway, in light of all this more positive American attitude that was starting to happen with the Obama candidacy, and now Presidency, I wrote a song about New York. So this song's about New York, which everybody - every Jew in the world loves New York!"
- Who Are You New York -
"You're all so lucky tonight because I have an amazing person with me: my mother is here (cheers!)...and (as Kate walks out, barefoot, holding a camera) - are you filming me?!" She pointed the camera at the audience, took a picture, gave a thumbs-up, and sat down at the piano. Rufus: "We're gonna do this one song and then there's gonna be a little intermission, and - please come back! (shrug) (laughter) We've done a bit of New York, bit of America - we've been in America a lot, I think, and now we're gonna move over to England, and we're gonna do a song by the great Noel Coward..."
- If Love Were All -
"Well, if we sing 'If Love Were All,' we have to sing 'A Foggy Day'...well, we have to remember it first...uh...how does it start? It goes..."
Kate: "Uh, how does it go?"
Rufus offers a half-assed attempt that peters out at the end: "I was a stranger in this city..."
Kate mumbles a little bit, tries singing a few notes as she searches for the right chords...lots of laughter, and then Rufus says something that sounds like, "You gotta give her credit...D'you want to just start?"
Kate: "Okay - how does it start?"
Rufus: "I was a stranger in this city..." and they fumble all the words in the song, though very comedically so, with that McGarrigle-Wainwright nonchalance, until they finally get to the chorus and finish the song beautifully.
- A Foggy Day -
- The Art Teacher -
"We've done America, we've done England, and we're gonna move a little south and do some Paris. I've noticed there's a lot of French - we've been having a funny experience, my mother and I, because usually when we want to say something, you know, naughty, about someone, we usually do it in French...but everybody here speaks French - but we do it anyway!"
- Leaving For Paris - (breathtakingly beautiful when it's done live!)
...which seamlessly led into a perfect rendition of:
- Hallelujah - (the whole theater was singing along)
- California -
"You guys are a really great audience - thanks so much for being great. And now I'm gonna tell you the one - I mean, this is good, you're gonna love this - the one - well, it's an actual funny Holocaust story. It actually doesn't involve the Holocaust - at the time - but it's an amazing story that I just have to tell while I'm here. Do you all know the actor Walter Matthau? Great actor. He was visiting Auschwitz, and he was there with his agent, and they were about to enter into the gas chamber, and right before that happened, this woman came up to them and said, 'Oh my God, it's Walter Matthau! Can I have your autograph?!' And he turned to her and said, 'Madam, this is really the wrong time to ask me for this, it's totally inappropriate, and no, you cannot have my autograph. Goodbye.' So then she left, and they went into the gas chamber, saw it, and then they left, and as they were leaving, she ran up to him and said, 'I just want you to know that you ruined my trip to Auschwitz!' True story!"
- Rebel Prince -
Saying that he comes from a musical family...talking about Kate: "...and she, of course, is an incredible singer, part of a classic duo called the McGarrigle Sisters - I hope you go out and get all their records - and also my sister, Martha Wainwright, is a singer, and I have another sister, Lucy Wainwright Roche, who's a singer, and my father, of course, the great Loudon Wainwright, is a singer, so we're all - and there's even others - so I'm from a - I'm basically from the circus (laughter), and this next song sort of touches on that...it's about wanting to be just a member of the family - even though it's the circus."
- Want -
Kate comes back on stage: "It's not the 'McGarrigle Sisters,' it's 'Kate & Anna McGarrigle."
Rufus: "Oh, I'm sorry...!" (laughs)
Kate: "And it's not a circus, either."
Kate: "Circuses are FUN..."
Rufus: "Okay, mother...(feigned innocence) Irish mothers are sort of like Jewish mothers. (laughter) We're gonna do one of Kate's songs now - why don't you tell us a little bit about it?"
Kate: "It's called 'Mendocino,' which has a whole complicated story that I'm not gonna go into now...Do you remember how it goes?"
Rufus: "Yeah, I remember."
Kate: "Do you remember your part better than the way I remembered your part in the other song?"
Rufus: "Uh...we'll see...This IS the circus...and nobody knows what'll happen..." After a few moments of Kate finding the right chord: Do you remember YOUR part?"
Kate: "I do. (laughter) We've never done it together before on piano -"
And it was gorgeous, obviously! What a beautiful song.
- Mendocino -
"Mendocino" leads into "Somewhere Over The Rainbow." Rufus sings: "Somewhere over the rainbow/Skies are -"
Kate quickly corrects him: "Way up high -" and Rufus quickly recovers, amid laughter. The rest of the song is stunning.
- Somewhere Over The Rainbow -
Kate kisses Rufus, leaves the stage.
- Zebulon -
- Complainte de la Butte -
"We're gonna bring my mother out again, we're gonna do another song...We thought that with all of this, sort of, cultural mishmash that is the world, we would do an Irish song. Since we're Irish - sort of. Half-Irish. She's very Irish - you're very Irish, right?"
Kate: "I'm half - I'm five-eighths -"
Rufus: "Five-eighths Irish. Which means you're very, VERY Irish. (laughter) Another reason I wanted to sing it is that this morning I woke up early and went to breakfast, and they had this incredible breakfast at the hotel, and I stuffed my face, but then I was like, 'There's one thing really missing,' and I couldn't quite - 'What's missing?' and I was like, 'Of course - bacon! There's no bacon!' (laughter) And this next song, sort of, is about bacon. (laughter) It's an ode to bacon - and the Irish, if there are any Irish people out there. And also, we were thinking about how - nobody knows this song - it's probably American, actually - we were thinking, written by Irish Americans, but then we thought it was probably actually written in the Brill Building, which in the '20s, or something, is where all the songwriters in New York wrote their lyrics - and it was probably written by Jews! Because most of those songwriters were Jews. Whatever. So who knows? But there's a connection there, somewhere. (laughter) It's called, uh...what's it called?"
Kate: "It's called, uh...I don't know the name of it..."
Rufus: "I don't know...It's called BACON! (laughter) It's called the Little Pigs. It's called the Little Pigs. Okay, let's go."
Kate: "Wait - what key do we do it in?"
Rufus: "Da-na..." (trying out a key)
Kate: "Too high..."
Rufus: "Ohhhh! (trying out another key) No, that's not too high. I can hit that note. I want to hit that note...(whining)"
Kate: "Well, if you think it's not too high..."
Rufus: "Yeah, I can hit it." (cheers!)
Kate: "Now you're being Irish - you gotta hit that high note."
Rufus: "I know, I know...Get high, hit the high note..."
Kate: "Get high and hit the pavement."
Rufus: (laughing) "Hit the high road...Give me a little intro...As I went out one evening in Tipperary town/I spied a fair...(looks to Kate for assistance) mavourneen -"
Kate: "- I spied a little colleen -"
Rufus; "- I spied a little colleen/Amongst the heather brown...."
Kate leaves the stage, but first grabs the microphone and says, "I got this dress from Marc Jacobs - I paid nothing for it."
- Poses -
By the end of the night, I'd gone from being a lonely expatriate with Rufus-less prospects, to saying hello to him at the stage door! I've been lucky enough to meet him after other concerts in the U.S. (plus a chance - or was it by divine providence? - meeting on the street in New York!), and didn't really want to bother him with pictures and autographs - so I just said, "Go and see La Traviata - I just saw it, and it's wonderful!" He said, "Oh, okay! Okay!" and it may have been my imagination, but he did seem to have recognized me...!
Meantime, my mum had gone over to Rufus' van, where Kate was already seated. My mom's a musician by trade who's played at various folk festivals over the years - including Mariposa, in Canada, which was a big gig of Kate & Anna's back in the day. Unfortunately, the year my mom was invited to play, the McGarrigles canceled because one of them was pregnant. Still, they have a few mutual friends from the music world, and when my mum went over to their van last night, they started talking and reminiscing...Kate was thrilled to hear the names of some of her old friends - I'm sure a little bit of familiarity while on the road must've been nice - and at one point, my mum quietly said, "You know, my daughter really loves your son," and they both beamed and shared a beautiful moment of motherly pride. "It's rare for a mom to be so involved with her kids in this business," my mum later told me.
I agree that Rufus may not have expected such a receptive audience. I think he was a little bit surprised by Israel, to be honest. Like most people, probably surprised to find that while it is the Jewish state, it's not all about religion and Judaism.
Finally, I'd like to add that there IS bacon in Israel! As demonstrated by a little pizza shop around the corner from the theater that served bacon-topped pizza! (I even have a picture to prove it!)