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Flashback Friday - - Rufus As Judy, 2006

Karen, Jere, Dale, and I saw Rufus Wainwright in his re-creation of Judy Garland's immortal 1961 Carnegie Hall concert, almost exactly 11 years ago. It was an unforgettable night. Because, you know, when you're smiling, the whole world smiles with you.

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Last night (Weds 6/14/06) Rufus Wainwright did the first of two concerts at Carnegie Hall, recreating the Judy Garland Carnegie Hall comeback concert of 1961. He did the same 24 songs in the same arrangements (with some tweaking), with a 40-piece orchestra. It was an extraordinary performance, it's the kind of thing that I enjoyed immensely at the time and will enjoy even more as the days and years go by. Can't wait to get the album.

He sang SO BEAUTIFULLY - - he has a peculiar voice, but he certainly knows how to use it, and sounded gorgeous last night. Singing these songs brought out a newer richer beauty to his voice that isn't there as much when he's singing his own songs, or other pop/rock/folky songs.


The audience was insane, littered with gay men straddling 40 who were thrilled to be having their Judy at Carnegie Hall Moment, since they weren't available the first time. The orchestra was killer - - the overture alone drove us all nutty. Rufus's clothes were by Viktor and Rolf - - the first act outfit was maybe the most elegant thing I've seen on a man: a pearl gray suit with a black satin strip up the side of the pant (like they do on tuxedos) and a white shirt with large-ish black stars in different sizes, the largest star being probably 3 inches wide. I don't remember the shoes, which is shameful.

I was in tears many times during the night, it was such a bizarre conflation of elements, all brought together to hit me where I live! His stage deportment throughout was darling and idiosyncratic: sometimes petulant, sometimes fully exultant and self-aggrandizing (in a Barbra way, thrilling), sometimes goofy and self-conscious. But every single moment was dedicated and fully formed. I got the feeling that he knew this was his moment and he was equal to the task and if it wasn't going to have an impact in Cultural History, like the Judy concert, it was going to be a moment in HIS history. And in mine!

There's one thing I was worried about, and that was the keys - - his range and Judy's range are very different, and he was using her original arrangements. I don't know what the particulars are, but I would guess that his range is about a fourth lower than hers, which is a big diff when it comes to these arrangements, which were created just for her (unless they were created for someone else, see story below about Rosemary Clooney). But the tweaking was very successful, there was only one song where I felt like the sound was a little murky. One of the most touching moments of the whole night was when he sang "Do it again", which was done as a tender ballad. He sang this song in her key, in her range, which was rather high, but he crooned it up there and sounded lovely.

One cute thing: before he did that song, the third song of the night, he said, "Now I'm going to talk, because at this point in the album, Judy talks."

"You go to my head" was funny, he quoted Judy when she forgot the words. Bucky Pizzarelli gave us one of the high points of the evening, in his divine guitar solo during "How long has this been going on". "The man that got away" was stunning, another highlight - - Jere and I filled Karen in on what a kow-pow moment it is in *A Star is Born*. One of the greatest songs ever. And "San Francisco", the song that closed the first half, was roof-raising.