So, Andrew’s Christmas prezzie for me was a ticket to go see one of my musical heroes, Ms Wainwright, in Paris. Tres bien, I said, and began booking my flights. Aer Lingus one way to Charles de Gaulle, cheapsville! And then the return leg of a Dublin-Paris (Beauvais) round trip via Ryanair. Also cheap. And yes, it was cheaper to book a return flight with them than a one way, don’t ask for a reason. Anyhoo.
Get on to Rufus, damn you, I hear you cry.
Not yet, for blogs are, to quote Andrew, ‘self indulgent’ and meant to tell you things about cheap flights. You don’t get that in the Guardian (although now that they have embraced blogs, you, in fact, do.)
Anyway, got to the Hotel Brighton to find a very irked Andrew (he had taken the Eurostar from London). Our room was not available as the person occupying it was ill and wished to stay on. Bah. They put us in a cab to another hotel, but forgot to tell the taxi driver this. Fun. Anyway, not being completely hopeless, we worked it out (lots of Andrew being stroppy on Blackberry hee hee). The sent us to a nice little hotel beside the Louvre, where each room was named after an artist. We stayed in Yves Klein. A rather attractive Eastern European man at the desk pronounced my surname in a way I hardly thought possible, and regained his composure very quickly when I clarified that we only needed the one room thanks. The Hotel Brighton had neglected to mention that either – sigh!
[Adopts Ferris Bueller voice] You’re still here?
OK, OK we got to the Olympia where the ‘fus was singing. It’s a marvellous venue – all opulent reds and ushers whom you have to tip etc. We had great seats on the mezzanine on the left hand side. A straight Irish couple were seated next to us too. They had seen Rufus play in Dublin with the extended Wainwright clan and really liked him. I found it amusing that a straight couple would traipse all the way to Paris to hear a poofter doing a tribute to Judy Garland. Oh! What a World!
Rufus was also ill (maybe he was in our bloody room in the Hotel Brighton?) and his ability to hit the high notes at the big finales was somewhat impaired. I found this hilarious, but Rufus makes me laugh a lot anyway. He was a total trouper and even though he was obviously quite ill, he kept ’em coming. Much to the delight of the straight Irish guy beside us, who whooped with gusto at the end of nearly every song: “Gowanyaboyya!”
For those of you who don’t know, this spectacular was Rufus’ recreation of Judy Garland’s 1961 gigs in Carnegie Hall, London’s Palladium and the Olympia. He sings the same songs, has some of the same musicians in the 40+ orchestra, affects the same ‘mistakes’ and perhaps wears the same shoes, who knows. So, we get treated to the Great American Songbook, which is a rather freaking camp place as it is without Rufus channeling Judy Garland.
The whole thing was marvellous. And he wheeled out the divine Martha Wainwright to do Stormy Weather and Someone To Watch Over Me (which turns out to be a favourite of Andrew’s – I didn’t know that). And then out pops Lorna Luft, Judy’s daughter who isn’t Liza. And she shows the youngsters how to do it, old skool.
For me it was rather delicious the way Wainwright subverted the old standards and the hammy style in which we are used to hearing them being performed. His illness meant he had to laugh at his inability to hit the Whitney moments, and this seemed also to be a mild send up of the genre. Contrast that with Lorna Luft’s showbizzy hamming it up and you could tell she was taking it all very seriously indeed. (While being an Old Pro, of course.)
Occasionally, he seemed to bring something real out of the songs. His version of Do It Again was achingly sensual – more like one of his own tracks than the hugely silly Chicago. We’ve heard his version of Somewhere Over the Rainbow before, but it’s a highlight tonight. I get the feeling that he felt he hadn’t done it justice though as he strained to sustain the notes.
It ended with a standing ovation and we eventually poured out into the lovely Paris night. We felt soooo underdressed there – the Parisiens really make an effort when they go out – lots of expensive dark clothing. Very elegant. A lady pressed a CD into my hand. It has a new song by Rufus, written to promote a new fragrance by Viktor & Rolf (whoever they are). By now, Andrew was ill too – fucking hell! So we had a quick trot down to take some pics of the Eiffel Tower et al, then a crepe and bed. I was up early to get the bus to Beauvais, admire the hardworking and efficient Eastern European cabin crew in the Ryanair flight, and feel a bit sad that it was all over too soon.
I hope everyone’s feeling better. Even the guy who usurped our room. To quote Ms Luft; Merci, Rufus, merci beaucoup.
Here is the song that was on the CD. I think it’s called ‘Ode to Antidote‘ (mp3 4.5MB). Have a listen.