Concert: Rufus Wainwright in Los Angeles
Jeff Buckley discovered Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah," deflated the original's production and created a sparse anthem. Rufus Wainwright recorded it for "Shrek" and, like James Taylor taking on Carole King's "You've Got a Friend," he may well find himself having to sing someone else's song for the rest of his career.
It was the only song requested from the audience at Wainwright's show at the Greek Theater (8/20). The word "hallelujah" emerged from the silence between songs in his song cycle "All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu" and he ignored it; the second time was a more deliberate shout early in the second half of the night. He referred to the request as being "so L.A."
Not only is Wainwright's current show not about popular songs, it's going against the musical logic Cohen extols in the search for the "secret chord": In "Lulu," which is just his piano and voice, it's music for music's sake, the words ruling the roost to convey mental states and story lines.
Wainwright has performed his song cycle "Lulu" in full on his current tour. At the Greek Theater, scaled down to feel even more intimate than usual, an announcer appears first to request that no one applaud during the performance or until Wainwright has left the stage; latecomers and the oblivious chose to ignore the request, though an overwhelming majority was more than happy to oblige.
The singer enters in the dark, walking slowly and purposefully, his black ruffled garb and lengthy train a cross between Liza Minnelli, Liberace and the Queen of England. He sits and sings the songs of "Lulu" in order, a video art piece by Douglas Gordon beamed behind him. The video is of an eye, a blue one, that blinks, holds open and closes for the occasional respite. A tear will well up, the image multiplies in places and disappears from the screen for a couple of songs. While Wainwright hits the keys a bit louder or softer than on record, it's that eye providing the emotional cues, simply and directly. The more melodic the tune, though, the better, as "What Would I Ever Do With a Rose," "Martha" and the finale "Zebulon" stood out.
It's significantly different from his second set, a collection of his better-known songs delivered in a garish orange suit with matching shirt that might have been worn by one of Batman's arch villains on the '60s TV show. "My Phone's on Vibrate for You," "Memphis Skyline" and "Cigarettes and Chocolate" provided room for him to frolic; his sister Martha, who opened the show, joined for a few numbers, including a charming reading of "Hallelujah."
23 - Saratoga, CA - The Mountain Winery (w/ Martha Wainwright)
25 - Seattle, WA - Paramount Theater (w/ Martha Wainwright)
28 - Long Island, NY - Watermill Summer Concert (w/ Kylie Minogue)
Sep 09 - Portland, OR - Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall
5 - Tokyo, Japan - JCB Hall
6 - Nagoya, Japan - Club Quattro
8 - Osaka, Japan - Namba Hatch Namba Hatch
10 - Seoul, South Korea - AX-Hall
14 - Sydney, Australia - Sydney Opera House
15 - Brisbane, Australia - QPAC Concert Hall
17 - Adelaide, Australia - Festival Theatre
18 - Perth, Australia - Concert Hall
21 - Sydney, Australia - State Theatre
24 - Melbourne, Australia - Palais Theatre
28 - Christchurch, New Zealand - Town Hall Auditorium
30 - Wellington, New Zealand - Michael Fowler Centre Auditorium
31 - Auckland, New Zealand - The Civic
11-13 2010 - San Francisco, CA - Davies Symphony Hall
18 - The Hague, Netherlands - Crossing Border
19 - Antwerp, Belgium - Crossing Border
20 - Groningen, The Netherlands - De Oosterpoort
22 - London, United Kingdom - Royal Albert Hall (w/ Martha Wainwright)