Just twenty four short hours from a rollicking Idlewild show in Wolverhampton I found myself sat down in Colston Hall for a show that was a polar opposite, Rufus delivering his All Days are Nights: Songs for Lulu album, a tribute to his mother’s, Kate McGarrigle passing.
Fortunately I had been pre-warned of the format for the evening and an announcer read out:
“The first part of the program will be performed as a song cycle with visuals by Douglas Gordon. During the first set, Rufus has asked that you please do not applaud until after he has left the stage. His exit is part of the piece. After a brief intermission, Rufus will return for the second part of the show during which you may applaud to your heart’s content. Please also refrain from photography during the first set.”
Well thank goodness he hadn’t gotten all precious on us then…
The ‘song cycle’ frankly is a hard set of songs to listen to in a block like this, there is a monotone to their nature, the tried and tested soft/loud/soft structure just too obvious on this excursion for me. Songs like Martha are more approachable and the final Zebulon a painful elegy for his mother. The visuals of various forms of his heavily made up eyes, blinking across the huge, backdrop paled after a while. Rufus’ uber camp and ponderous arrival and exit in a black gown trimmed with feathers and sequins stretching far out behind him as he made his oh so slow progress from wings to piano stool was I guess, ‘dramatic’. Not a comfortable of entirely enjoyable first half.
The second half on the other hand was much more the ticket – a more chipper and personable Rufus played a pleasing number of old songs from Poses, a few from more recent sets and pleased the whole hall. A particular personal fav was Under ta Memphis Skyline, a complex song delivered with sensitivity and accuracy – great stuff. His piano is excellent and he was in full voice last night, from the low notes to the high and the long notes such as those in Vibrate. A long second half meant that he must have played for close on two hours in total, quite a marathon on your own. Closing the pre-planned encore with the Walking Song written by his mother seemed quite appropriate and we all left in better humour than we would have at half time.