I've been a fan of Mr. Wainwright since college. His Poses record knocked me out. He kept the grandeur coming (although it took an awfully long time) with Want One, which I couldn't turn off (or down for that matter). His special brand of brooding, his knowing mixture of glamour and sadness, his rich and delicious vocal savvy, his humor....his eyes. He had me at "Greek Song."
In the summer of 2007 I had the paramount pleasure of seeing him prance across the Ryman stage for at least three hours of unfading glory during his Release the Stars tour. He wore a loudly striped suit -- looking much like a hybrid of Fruit Stripe gum and a beach cabana -- and sharp-toed silver lamé shoes for the first act. He stood before a vast interpretation of an American flag he had crafted himself using grey tones of paint and vintage brooches. How very Rufus. For the second act, he came out wearing suede lederhosen and knee socks. He exuded complete confidence and fabulousness. I don't know how, but man. He pulled it off.
That's nothing though, compared to his encore performance. Oh, how my heart flutters and my mouth twitches in the beginnings of giddy laughter when I think of it....Stage right, Rufus enters, carrying a black cafe chair and wearing fishnet stockings, heels, a suit coat and a black fedora. He sits, pulls a tube of lipstick out of his pocket, and slicks on a shade of red I can almost taste from my seat in the balcony. The band thrills us with the explosive beginning trills of "Get Happy." The rest, well, I'll let you paint it for yourself but will just take this opportunity to say that I feared the time-trusted walls and church pews might bust from their cemented foundations in that hallowed hall when the applause erupted on his last strain. I was all tingly and just aghast. I don't think I was able to speak coherently for several hours/days after that performance.
So his subsequent project, a record called Rufus Does Judy At Carnegie Hall which released in December of that year, is all I can listen to these days. He channels his childhood heroine, Judy Garland, in a way I can't describe. It's utterly delightful, and his catty banter between songs is almost as enjoyable as the songs themselves. If you are a committed Rufus fan, I highly recommend purchasing the album in its entirety, for to break it up into bits and pieces would be a real crime. On selections like "Puttin' On the Ritz" and "San Francisco" he dazzles the listener in a devil-may-care fashion that only he can pull off. His torchy rendition of "The Man That Got Away" makes me want to scream along, it's so full of heart and grit. Don't even get me started on the sustained seduction in his voice when he sings "Do It Again." His satiny treatment of "I Can't Give You Anything But Love" is fresh and just delightful. In stark contrast, his bongo-fied version of "Come Rain Or Come Shine" is percussive and perfectly spicy and hauls along like a runaway freight train. I really can't say enough about this man's vocal prowess. That is some serious stamina.
I don't exactly know why I am just now taking advantage of this gem so if you'll excuse me now, I've got to make up for lost time.