Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Rufus W

Cloud has already noted how good it was last week to see RW, so I will add my comments now.

What a show! If you want a flavour of his live performances I can recommend the CD/DVD special edition of his recent work Want Two. This includes a concert performance at the Fillmore in San Francisco and although it cuts most in-between song banter, you do still get the sense of his stage presence.

Following a rambling extract from a telephone answering machine recording of Judy Garland drunkenly asking her daughter Liza Minelli to come and sing for her, RW opened his performance with the operatic Angus Dei from Want Two. He remained at the piano before fully emerging with guitar at the front to acknowledge his arrival in the "Robin Hood 'hood" (he laughed at himself as he said it but we all loved him for it!) and suggesting a local connection. Smart: someone was doing the research - as he later reminded us Rufus, son of William the Conqueror, was killed in Sherwood Forest in 1100.

The set was heavy on the material from his most recent album, but as he captures that knack of making songs that call so much to mind nothing felt strange. Instead, his mastery of all manner of styles and genres enabled us all to feel joyful at our recognition (or maybe it is just that he has seeped into our consciousness). There were enough works from his earlier albums, especially the magesterially acclaimed Want One, to satisfy less recent fans, but being a Beatles aficionado from days past, I was especially pleased with an interpretation of Across the Universe that was camply ethereal.

Indeed, one thing that was utterly appealing was that element of camp: the occasional flick of the wrist or hand gesture that was so natural to him, so utterly unselfconscious. He clearly loves live performance: he remarks on the DVD that all the songs always sound fresh to him and he tires of nothing.

He also performed in a way that suggested effortless showmanship, even though the whole was obviously seriously choreographed. His shift of gear from show-stoppers to simple, intimate, confessional solo piano works was masterful. And even though he was a little taken aback by the sclae of the venue and its rather cavenous sound qualities (personally it does few acts many favours), he remained charmingly tart and gigglesome in his manner. Bemoaning the location of a light that reflected off his piano onto his ostentatious brooch and into his eyes he pleaded with the lighting crew to tone down the spotlight with enough grace to not piss them off but with a firm stance to say, "I know what I want".

Of course, there was the inevitable Hallelujah (from the Shrek album), which brought the house to rapturous delight. I am almost of the conclusion that that song is nigh impossible to ruin, so beuatiful is its construction, but if I say that I am certain to be proved that someone somewhere will tell me otherwise. But this was not the climax by a long way: any performance that can involve glitter pants, strobe lighting with a guy whipping the stage, an undressing band, sparklers and multiple references to The Wizard of Oz and STILL manage to smoothly move into yet more softly melancholic piano/guitar tracks is the mark of true showmanship.

At nearly 2.5 hours on stage, we certainly got a VFM performance and I would especially urge anyone in the midlands who gets chance to see him again in the provinces to go: I was mortified (if unsurprised) to read in the Nottingham Evening Post review that whilst 1500 people enjoyed the show, the second tier at the Royal Concert Hall was not opened for ticket sales. Yet the previous weekend a Queen tribute had sold out the place: do we really need stories like this to confirm London-centric attitudes that the provinces have no taste? There were three standing ovations for this most gloriously flamboyant performer who had us eating out of his hands. What a shame there were not more there to appreciate it. Go buy the back catalogue and relish the excess.

1 comment:

AnnaWaits said...

What a beautiful review; reminded me of things I had completely forgotten.