A couple of nights ago I went to see Rufus Wainwright perform Judy Garland’s 1961 concert at Carnegie Hall — at Carnegie Hall. For whatever reason I was kind of dreading going; I don’t know why, but my best guess is that the show just got too much hype beforehand. Betty opted out of going pretty early, so my very good friend and downstairs neighbor (who was a friend long before moving in downstairs) came with me. He’s both a Rufus and Judy fan. We were seated quite far away from Sarah Jessica Parker, but quite close to Justin Bond, which seemed quite a propos.
I may have been one of the only 100% Rufus fans there; I’d never heard the 1961 concert, which I suppose makes me a very bad faghag indeed. In the weeks leading up to it, I thought about listening, but decided not to. I would probably be one of the few who wouldn’t be comparing it to the original, and I kind of liked that.
Rufus has one hell of a singing voice. The songs where he could belt them out I love especially. In fact, I’ve been wanting him to do a recording of standards, because I love so many of those old songs and I love his voice. Finally, he’s taken my advice.
Clang, clang, clang went the trolley
Ding, ding, ding went the bell
Zing, zing, zing went my heartstrings
– as we started for Huntington Dell.
I didn’t see it so much as a gay seance (as the TONY journalist put it) but almost like a finishing touch to an era of gay awareness, and hopefully the beginning of a new one. As my friend said, on our way home, “The next generation doesn’t need Judy the way we did,” and while I think he’s right, I also think it’s a shame. We wondered too if there were as many gay men there that night in ’61 as there were tonight, and then wondered if maybe the only difference might have been that more of them are known to be gay now.
I’m glad at least that Rufus will be around to introduce this new generation of gay men to these songs he grew up singing, because some of them are not only touching, but sexy, and triumphant – and just remarkably pretty melodies with perfect lyrics. From what I hear, the event was filmed, so I expect both a movie version of the concert (probably with footage from both performances) and a CD of the music. Hopefully, anyway.
Other reviews can be found in my Rufus Wainwright thread on the boards.