Late Night with Rufus Wainwright (!), Prom 74 at Royal Albert Hall

September 12, 2014


Last night my emotions were running high when Henry and I spent an evening, or rather a 'Late Night with Rufus Wainwright' as he closed the BBC Proms at Royal Albert Hall. Rufus Wainwright, to put it simply, made my life bearable as an teenager. I was a fifteen year old with peers who simply couldn't comprehend my eschewing contemporary pop for classical compositions and my love of sweeping arias that in my mind expressed the sort of exquisite angst that I imagined to suffer. I sound like a savant, but I imagine that most young people of that age think themselves to be the greatest sufferer in a world of injustice and outcast in a society full of people 'who just doesn't get' them. Anyway! As a teenager growing up in Malaysia discovering music beyond the stuff fed to us by radio was an expensive and tedious endeavour---music on the internet wasn't what it was then. I remember Youtube being new and unchartered territory at the time and Spotify didn't exist yet---so trying and buying CDs at the music store (themselves offering a limited selection in Kuala Lumpur) was really the only way to discovering new artists and bands. It was a life-changing moment when, in 2001, I chanced upon Rufus Wainwright's second album in Kinokuniya in Singapore. Entranced by his illustrious mutton chops he sported in his cover photo and the song titles of tracks alluding themes of antiquity and classics, I parted with a CD of Poses tucked inside my red fetching leather jacket

And so begun a descend into a grandiose celebration of melancholy. I sighed with Wainwright as he longed for the beautiful Greek boy in Greek Song, imagined myself as The Consort to his master the Rebel Prince, and fantasised taking long, languid strolls of fashionable navel-gazing to Poses. Craving more I sought out his eponymous debut album and fell hard into his 'popera' world of tragic heroines, heartbreak, and demons. His classical compositions, wine-drenched nasal drawl, and vulnerable vibrato would comfort me throughout my painfully awkward teenage years and into adulthood. I used to trawl Limewire (remember that?) searching for fileshares of his songs and downloaded his many contributions to movie soundtracks (I love Stairway to Paradise, Hallelujah, and Complainte de la Butte which incidentally was the first French song I taught myself to sing). I collected his albums in CD form and eventually graduated to iTune when I bought my first (and only!) iTunes album Rufus Does Judy at Carnegie Hall. 

To put it simply, Rufus Wainwright's music was my constant companion throughout many years of (imagined or exaggerated in my young, angst-ridden mind) my unbearable darkness of being. So to finally hear him perform live after more than ten years of being in love with his music was, to put it simply, an experience. Bathed in the glow of the Royal Albert Hall, I shuddered with ecstasy, held back tears, soared with emotion, and sung (under my breath) to Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk accompanied by the instrumentals of Britten Sinfonia.







I was only feet away from Rufus and although I was on the 'wrong side' of the stalls I had an amazing view of his floppy hair, expressive gestures, and the starfish brooch he wore, a gift from Helena Bonham Carter. Oh, and I could also read the sheet music from where I sat and knew which songs he'd sing next because I could see the titles on the sheets!






Henry knows Wainwright's more recent songs, covers, and movie soundtracks whereas I was all about 'vintage Rufus' but nonetheless we both tremendously enjoyed his medley of showbiz tunes, newer songs from his latest album, arias from his opera sung by soprano Deborah Voigt, and of course classics from Poses.







To roaring applause and demands of an encore Wainwright came back to serenade us all with Somewhere Over The Rainbow.


It was a very emotional, uplighting, and exhilarating evening. Even as I type this now the gooseflesh and hair on my arms won't go away, and I won't be forgetting about this experience anytime soon.  Should you endeavour to discover Rufus Wainwright's 'baroque pop' for the first time may I suggest starting with the album Poses, seconding with his debut album, and then following with Want One and Want Two? Should all the melancholy be too straining, change the pace with his upbeat cover of Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall. Now if you will excuse me, I'm off to listen to all his albums back-to-back. Such an indulgence. x

ps. I'm very tempted to watch him in Hyde Park tomorrow with Earth, Wind and Fire. Should I? Should I?

2 comments:

  1. I've been watching all of the proms on TV and as amazing as that is, I bet nothing compares to seeing them live! It's high up on my 'to do' list!

    Ps. I adore the way you write, especially your humour - you sound a bit like the real life version of me, but I can't quite get it down on paper in the same way! Love, Sophie x

    I left my heart in Miami

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    1. Hello Sophie! Yes you MUST go to the Proms, it's such an awe-inspiring experience.

      You know what, I write like what I'd like to sound like in real life! In real life I'm not as cool and caustic, I tend to sputter like a toothless Cavalier Spaniel...think of @toastmeetsworld, look her up on Instagram!

      So yeah, if you speak like I write, I'm jealous of you. And also, you're awesome. xx

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