Judy Garland | Music | New York | Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright as Judy Garland at Carnegie Hall


Rufus Wainwright performed his recreation of Judy Garland's 1961 preformance at Carnegie Hall last night. The reviews are coming in, and they are, for the most part, glowing.

Rufus_judy_1Roger Bourland at Red Black Window posts part one of a two part review (photo by Daniel Shiplacoff), and notes that both the Wainwright and Garland groupies were spoonfed exactly what they wanted:

"The median age of the audience was probably 45. Was this because of the material? or is Rufus’s audience primarilly baby boomers? or were these the people who could afford it? I personally missed the edge of a younger audience. (But if I stop and think about it, Rufus seems to always enchant his listeners, they all look as thought they are in a daze when they listen. There is never a kind of headbangers ball scene at a Rufus Wainwright concert.) I saw Laurie Anderson, Jon Waters [sic], David Bowie, Antony, Joel Gray, and many other familiar faces. Lots of 45 to 60 well-off gay men. Many clusters of women, and surprising number of straight couples (that is for a concert by such a queer as RW). The audience offered up 4 or 5 standing ovations in the course of the evening. I’m certain that if overtime didn’t kick in for the orchestra and stage personnel, there would have been many more encores: the audience roar said as much."

The New York Times seems to agree:

"What unfolded onstage was a tour de force of politically empowering performance art in which a proudly gay male performer paid homage to the original and longest-running gay icon in the crowded pantheon of pop divas...For those who came to worship, Mr. Wainwright could do no wrong. His courage to stand as a surrogate for every audience member who ever gazed into the mirror and fantasized slipping into Dorothy's ruby slippers spoke for itself."

Somewhere Over the Rainbow, Conjuring Judy Garland [nyt]
Wainwright does Garland in Carnegie Hall (part 1) [red black window]
Historic Judy Garland concert restaged in New York [reuters]

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  1. I guess Anderson Cooper isn't the sole recipient of Leland's hatred around here afterall...

    Posted by: Mark | Jun 15, 2006 1:47:28 PM

  2. Jeff Buckley doing the same show would be amazing, and he could sing it all in the same key Judy did!

    Posted by: paul | Jun 15, 2006 2:01:49 PM

  3. Alls I'm sayin' is I'm gay, not all that young anymore (37), and don't think I need to be pigeon-holed into liking an entertainer because of her perceived contribution to my "culture." I hated the Wizard of Oz and I don't really care for torch-songs. "Who's Judy?" was a rhetorical question--of course I know who she is, but just because a person is gay doesn't mean they have to bend over and kiss Judy's ass or some guy singing her songs...Now, if we're talking Dolly, I'm right there in the front row!

    Posted by: Michael W. | Jun 15, 2006 2:13:26 PM

  4. Hi, it's Dave again. Obviously I know who Judy Garland is (having seen the Wizard of Oz), but I would rather to have my eardrums pierced with needles than sit through Rufus Wainwright singing her hit collection. I'm glad some of you understand where I am coming from (thanks Christian, Michael W, Patrick, etc.). Besides, did she really do anything *for* the gays anyway? Maybe some of your can educate the rest of us on what she's done other than play butch in the Wizard of Oz and pop a lot of pills. At least Madonna is proactive and appreciative in her role as gay icon.

    Posted by: Dave | Jun 15, 2006 2:45:09 PM

  5. I've enjoyed many moments in Madonna's career, but "proactive...in her role as a gay icon"? If you mean stealing from other gay icons such as Dietrich, from drag queens, and from gay voguers, yeah, I can see that. Otherwise, I fear I wasn't copied on the memo. Or did GLAAD give her an award when I wasn't looking? After all, they'll give one to anyone who simply utters the word "gay" and agrees to show up for one of their award wallows.

    Posted by: Leland | Jun 15, 2006 3:06:23 PM

  6. I cannot agree with you re: Judy, Dave. You don't have to do anything "for the gays" to be a gay icon. And Madonna is a ruthless shill who is draining the Gays of their expendable income with her $350 concert tickets. Don't give Madonna any more money, people! She's just passing it on to her anti-gay Kablahblah Centre anyway.

    Posted by: Patrick | Jun 15, 2006 3:23:26 PM

  7. A very similar debate is going on at another web-site that I frequent. These were my thoughts fresh from the show last night (in response to comments that the show was a "career saving stunt" by Rufus, and that "tasteless" gays need an "icon" so desperately, they will settle on the mediocre Rufus) :

    I make no claims about "musical taste" other than my own.

    I have no opinion--or frame of reference, even--regarding the state of Rufus' career: I'm very new to the Rufus party.

    Rufus is not an "idol" of mine.

    But I came of age as a gay man in an era (discussed at length on another thread) before the internet, before every high school prom in the country had a same-sex couple crisis, before GLAAD, before fax machines, for goodness' sake.

    I came of age to "Front Runner", "Dancer from the Dance", "The Lord Won't Mind", "Best Little Boy in the World". I actually knew Vito Russo. And for that part of the gay "community" (that's another debate for another day...): male, educated, privileged, urban, mostly white, Judy Garland means something. And we've all been listening to that f**king concert on vinyl, on cassette, on CD and now on iTunes year in and year out. I can mimic (in my enchanting, tone-deaf fashion) every line, every breath, every note. I can name the song by the roar of the audience. And it's part of my identity. It is inextricably bound up in memories of every kind.

    To sit in Carnegie Hall and hear those notes, that overture performed live--it was thrilling. The hair on my neck stood on end. It's like the guy who sat next to me at the Roundabout "Follies"--he was sobbing during the overture. We connect to music on so many levels.

    It didn't have to be Rufus--he's not my idol. I don't care about his hair. But it WAS Rufus. He's gay. He seems to connect to Judy and this material the way some gay men do. You don't have to connect, but don't tell me that I don't, or that I shouldn't--because I DO.

    And so here we are, all these years later. All this progress (Really?? Kevin Aviance might disagree there...) and in this month of Gay Pride, a Gay Man walked on to that stage and paid homage to an historic moment for (some) gay men. You can't take that away from me (and a LOT of the men sitting around me tonight). We really FELT it. And because you have some sort of gripe against Rufus you want to attribute it to my lack of taste or the sorry state of things.

    Let it go. You are wrong. When he sang "Over the Rainbow", I cried. It happened. You can't tell me it didn't, or that my feelings are misplaced. They are mine and I own them.

    Posted by: Zach | Jun 15, 2006 5:55:42 PM

  8. Right on, Paul. Goofus is a flabby carbon-copy of Buckley (and a whiney-voiced one) (I know he pushed Buckley in that river!). And really, who wants to hear a carbon-copy of Judy Garland??

    To all those out there who aren't familiar with Garland post-Wizard of Oz, go out and buy her Carnagie Hall CD. Really. You don't need anything else from her. It's all there. :)


    Posted by: jjabely | Jun 15, 2006 6:20:09 PM

  9. And further more...(ha!)...I'll do my best to avoid the album and video of this Goofus fiasco. After all, the ridiculous shot-for-shot remake of "Psycho" was pure stupidity. What happened to originality??

    Posted by: jjabely | Jun 15, 2006 6:32:53 PM

  10. "The edge of a younger audience?" Now I've heard everything. Being young gives an audience an edge. Wow.

    Can you spell V-A-P-I-D?

    Anyone unfamiliar with Judy should go rent (or order from Netflix) "A Star is Born" post haste.

    Posted by: Hephaestion | Jun 15, 2006 6:46:19 PM

  11. I was at the concert last night (I got a free ticket 45 minutes before the show) and I am really surprised at the angry tone of the comments on both sides on this site. I am 30 and happen to be both a Judy Garland and a Rufus Wainwright fan, and therefore something like this would appeal to me. Not everyone has to like either, but what needs to be acknowledged was how daunting this must have been for a 32-year old male singer to attempt to pay homage to a singer he admired and to songs he loved. He didn't try to channel Judy Garland -- he sang her songs with a humility and sense of fun - something Garland would have admired, I think. The audience loved it. As a gay man, too, it was nice to hear someone sing those very romantic songs normally sung by women. It was a very beautiful evening, and the energy in the house was palpable.

    Posted by: Kevin | Jun 15, 2006 8:41:21 PM

  12. Where were all the young people? Well, there *was* a Radiohead show going on last night as well. That's where I was-and that show was awesome.

    I think Wainwright made an incredible, flat out *perfect* debut CD and the records are getting worse and worse since the first one, which is unfortunate.

    Posted by: Charles | Jun 15, 2006 10:08:06 PM

  13. Lay off of Rufus, guys! All you haters can run out and buy Ashlee Simpson and watch Paris Hilton on TV and complain about pop culture today - this is a man who is innovative, difficult, non-commercial and completely daring in his music - doing a pop song to Ravel's Bolero, singing about his gay angst, doing Judy Garland... try to get that in a Jeff Buckey song. I wonder if it's like being ex-pat Americans in France or something - we're so uncomfortable with ourselves that find reasons to hate all the others, who seem gross or something. Rufus is a gay man who is courageous enough to be an artist on his own terms, and while he may not ever have much of a pop career, he is going to be aroud much longer than anything that we see around on the charts today. I don't really get Judy Garland - she was too cliche for me to make an effort - but I would have loved to be there just to see Rufus capturing the moment anyway...

    Posted by: r33 | Jun 16, 2006 2:52:04 AM

  14. Oh come on, this Rufus guy is lame.

    Jimmy James does Judy way better, and has much more range.

    How is this guy still famous?

    check out www.jimmyjames.com if you haven't heard of him

    Posted by: ARC | Jun 16, 2006 6:26:14 AM

  15. Hey! Any chance to go to a star studded event at Carnegie Hall is worth the effort. Bolsetered by several vodka martinis across the street at the Trattoria Dellarte, where I met Wainwright's Father, five minutes before curtain added a certain "electricity" to the air... especially since I was seated right in the middle of the "Stars" but next to one very unhappy woman who apparently didn't "get" me. Good thing I was on the isle or I'd have farted in her face on my way to the bar again!

    Posted by: Craig Hackman | Jun 16, 2006 8:04:50 AM

  16. "Let it go. You are wrong. When he sang "Over the Rainbow", I cried. It happened. You can't tell me it didn't, or that my feelings are misplaced. They are mine and I own them."

    LOL! Opinions aren't wrong or right and feelings are subjective. I'm glad you had a great night, but you couldn't have paid me to see that tripe.

    "Hey! Any chance to go to a star studded event at Carnegie Hall is worth the effort."

    That sentence made me feel sick.

    Posted by: Patrick | Jun 16, 2006 9:35:54 AM

  17. Who can expalin the cult of Rufus Wainwright? He cannot sing. He would be laughed off the first round of American Idol. William Hung has a stronger voice than Rufus. Has everyone gone deaf? He sounds like a strangled asthmatic cat. WTF is wrong with everyone who say's he is a genius?

    Posted by: Naked Emperor | Jun 16, 2006 1:35:48 PM

  18. there - you said it - to compare Rufus to anything on Americal Idol shows exactly how low mainstream Amercian culture has gone. To compare a sold-out show at Carnegie Hall with something on TV - Fox no less - is a bit laughable. But hey, on a blog, everyone has the right to an opinion - its just not worth a lot... Rufus is laughing all the way to the bank while you're busy watching TV.

    Posted by: r33 | Jun 16, 2006 2:23:31 PM

  19. I am not a huge Rufus fan, but I have his debut and Want Two. I'm, I guess, pretty young. I'm 27. I admit I don't really know any of Judy Garland's work besides Oz. Ditto for Liza Minelli or Barbra Streisand. But what I do know is that while I find Rufus's voice highly irritating after about 4 songs, I would've have gone to this show (if it had been cheaper) simply to open my mind to both Ms. Garland and Rufus's interpretation of her. I think it's a noble gesture to attempt to intro/re-introduce an ageless legend to a new generation and I commend Rufus on that attempt, even if it didn't turn out the way some people wanted it to.

    I think it's important for all generations of gays to remain connected. It's been shown that most minorities, as they reach greater social acceptance, lose their senses of togetherness, compassion, history, and understanding. I hope that fate doesn't fall our community.

    That being said, I'm gonna go DL a few Streisand songs.

    Posted by: Bobby Alexander | Jun 16, 2006 2:51:37 PM

  20. R33,

    Anyone can watch Judy Garland clips on You Tube and compare them with Rufus Wainwright clips. You don't have to be gay or born in 1935 to realise Judy could sing and Rufus cannot sing. Wake up! Use your ears! The RW cult is unexplicable. He cannot fucking sing. His songs are standard primitive pop songs. The emperor has no clothes.

    Posted by: Naked Emperor | Jun 16, 2006 6:59:36 PM

  21. I love Rufus Wainwright's music, although I can see where others might not.

    However, part of the reason there weren't many young people there, is because the younger generation (of which I am a part) don't identify with Judy Garland. I think in general, most 20-something and younger 'mos identify Judy Garland as the epitome of the gay stereotype. If you like Judy Garland, you are an uber-queen, etc. I certainly can appreciate Judy Garland--she was an incredible talent of course, and one of our first "allies" if you will, and for that she deserves all the adulation she gets from the gay community. But while I respect her immensely, I have no desire to go to a concert of hers (were she still capable of one), and I certainly have no desire to see Rufus Wainwright recreate one. Don't care.

    Oh, and Naked Emperor--it's INexplicable not UNexplicable. FYI.

    Posted by: John | Jun 18, 2006 8:05:50 PM

  22. Hey Patrick, It sounds like you were jealouse that it wasn't you up there instead of Rufus... I don't think you could afford a meatball let alone tripe! Get over it. He did what you wished you always could. Got attention!

    Posted by: CH | Jun 18, 2006 8:51:20 PM

  23. you should include drag legend jackie beat on your blogroll- she's hilarious!


    Posted by: daniel | Jun 24, 2006 12:36:10 PM

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