As I sit here at my desk staring out into another gray grim Seattle day with the rain steadily peeing down upon my existence like Satan’s Watering Can, I am thinking about how Life, yes LIFE, is said to be nothing more than a collection of our experiences. When it rains I get introspective and mildly mopey, you see, but I do have coffee to mitigate. Anyway, if indeed we are just the sum of what we have done, it would then follow that it might be a good thing indeed to choose our experiences wisely, and to also do things that perhaps take you in a different direction every so often.

This is a bit how I think about the concert I attended last night, which was by singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright in a solo performance at Seattle’s fancy-pants Benaroya Hall. I was familiar, if not intimately so, with his work, and knew that he was an excellent vocalist. I knew somewhat of his family background. His parents are the singer-songwriters Kate McGarrigle, unrepentant Canadian, and Loudon Wainwright III, whose middle name is Snowden, providing him with a moniker worthy of the Monty Python “Upper Class Twit of the Year” sketch. I knew that Rufus is openly gay, struggled with drug addiction in the past, and that he has worked as a professional musician most of his life. Normally, I would have considered seeing him live, but would have probably skipped it, favoring as I do my more garage-y pop rock shows. But as my pal Dena wanted to fly in for the show from Chicago I said OK and got the tickets, open to not only connecting with something that a close friend was passionate about, but to see what I could learn.

Here is something I learned: that DAMN RUFUS has THE MOST ON-PITCH VOICE that I have ever heard. It was downright spooky! The entire night, not a bobble, not a crack, not a flat or sharp note to be heard. HOW IS THIS POSSIBLE? Well, I honestly have no idea. I have heard a whole lot of excellent singers in concert, but I have never heard anyone perfectly execute every single note. Here is something else I thought: Rufus Wainwright is a cello. THAT is what he sounds like, more than anything else, that is the unique quality of his voice, that particular resonance, the attack and decay, the tone. This realization was really making me think, sitting there and watching him sing. Did his mother play cello sonatas to him to put him to sleep as an infant? Are his vocal cords, in fact, metal wound strings, his uvula a small bow? Compare:

A cello:

The disembodied head of Rufus Wainwright, performing “Give Me What I Want,” only the second public performance of this new song (so I’m not a filmmaker, sue me):

See? Even in the way his voice is going through his cute little nose adds to the cellolicious quality. Now, if we want to digress for a moment, and by “we” I do always mean “I,” let us (or me) take a moment to compare the similarities between jazz geniuses Dizzy Gillespie and Louis Armstrong, and the incomparable and inexplicable Shooby Taylor, the self-proclaimed “Human Horn”:

I think my cello comparison is legit. Was Shooby the “Human Horn?” His scatting (what an appropriate double meaning there) reminds me more of this Norwegian prankster, playing his trumpet out his window as a marching band goes by:

My veer is done. Back to Rufus. My critical summation of the Seattle show was that it was impressive, heartfelt, lovely, funny, and left me feeling like it was quite a good thing that I had chosen to be there. He is, without question, a remarkably gifted musician. I only have two minor complaints. Rufus tends to write and perform songs that stay fairly tightly in his “sweet spot” vocal range. Now, granted, that is one mighty fine sweet spot. But, he has fantastic ability and is just as in control on his lowest and highest notes as he is hugging that middle range, and can swoop and dive and dart like a Resplendent Quetzel. (Please Google "Resplendent Quetzel" if you like; that’s my favorite bird name.) I would like to hear him take more of those melodic runs. When he did so during the evening, you could feel almost as if a window were being opened and a rush of fresh air let in, and there was a noticeable appreciation and buzz in the audience for it.

My other small whine is about opening act Joan As Police Woman (Joan Wasser) joining Rufus onstage to sing a verse of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah.” Sigh. When you are singing with someone who has a REALLY REALLY REALLY good voice, on a song that is known for its vocal difficulty, you too should probably be pretty good yourself, otherwise your audience is really feeling THE DIFFERENCE, dig? Also, you should try to not make anguished faces during your attempt that gives the impression that you have terrible intestinal gas. That is all.

So I sit here still, Lucifer’s liquid still pouring from the implacable, impenetrable skies as I write, very pleased that the road less traveled led me to a symphonic hall to see Rufus Wainwright perform on a Sunday night instead of staying home and cursing the laundry. He added nicely to my bank of experience, the memories I haul with me as I skip forward on my number line, the things I will recall with a smile. Rufus Wainwright is a cello, Shooby Taylor is a Norwegian Human Horn, and I am the Devil’s Retention Pond, apparently.