Last week I saw Rufus Wainwright on his Songs for Lulu tour, the new album released last month, just a few weeks after the sad death of his mother Anna McGarrigle of cancer, in January.
The album itself is the most stripped bare of Rufus' works - it is simply Rufus at his piano. And yet the whole record is arguably his most complicated, intricate and emotionally textured of anything he has ever produced before.
The performance was exquisite. Criticised by some as being pretentious, Rufus played the entire album in full, clapping in between songs forbidden. The usual Rufus banter was absent. No little quips of welcomes. Or face pulling. Just Rufus, his piano, and the heart-wrenching musical tale of losing his mother.
Typically, the audience illustrated the amazing wide spectrum of fan-base Rufus attracts. From grannies to teens, to trendies to punks, from men wearing skirts to straight-laced middle-aged tweeds; it matters not, and everyone has a wonderful time. If solemn on this occasion.
Rufus Wainwright's music has had a big impact on me. When I first discovered his unique tones, his rather (almost) odd sound and alternative style, I couldn't quite put my finger on what it was, but I was instantly intrigued. Part grandiose orchestral epics, part melancholic piano or guitar compositions, it hit a nerve inside my stomach that I did not even know existed within myself.
Rufus' songs were like Columbus, roaming around new territories, discovering new wonders. Only the territory was my own self.
His voice sounds like melted chocolate, yet with sprinkles of glittering spikey sawdust. The melodies are soft and dripping with intricately layered emotion, and yet others are upbeat (almost) pop. Yet this was pop if Chekhov had written it...dressed as Judy Garland and sacrificing himself on a cross.
Rufus gave me a new love of music. I couldn't get enough. My every day life required a Wainwright soundtrack, even just walking down to the shops I wanted to be singing along about old whores and their diets or gay messiahs. His soulful tunes touched my own feelings of sadness. It resonated. And yet his lyrics were poetry alone, metaphors of romance literally or not. Relationships strained, relationships lost; self destruction, self love, ridiculously self obsessed and yet often unselfishly tender. It's a whirlwind, as dramatic as a Greek tragedy. Evocative words that danced around my heart, warming me when sad or making me more melancholic with their truths.
Music, art, literature....what it means to us individually is often through our own experiences and feelings, and what we bring to it ourselves. They say the genius in film making/writing is what is not said on the screen before us. Rufus' talent is throwing indulgences to gorge upon, to feast; and yet also leaving us gaps and corners for us to settle down in, bringing our own interpretations and spheres, to find solace or enjoyment. A reflection of what we live, of what we have.
Or sometimes, the hallowed tone of a single note, expressing in someone, the sheer pain of existing.
Es mus sein.