Ah, Rufus. The toast of the town. The cat’s meow. The “greatest songwriter in the world,” according to Elton John. We could listen to him sing jingles in Finnish. Really.
But luckily we didn’t have to. Along with his sister Martha, Rufus hosted several friends for a night of holiday favorites at Carnegie Hall. The musical genres ranged from pop to rock to jazz; languages from English to Hebrew to French; guests from performance artists like Antony and Laurie Anderson to Jimmy Fallon to Kate and Anna McGarrigle.
Rufus and Lou Reed did a stunning duet of Bing Crosby’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” which featured Rufus almost yodeling the line “Ay-ay-ay-m dreaming.”
Martha and Fallon did a duet of “Baby It’s Cold Outside,” and Fallon brought the microphone down to his feet at one point to capture the sounds of his soft-shoeing moves. Later, Anderson played something eerie on an instrument she called a “hurdy gurdy.”
Joseph Gordon-Levitt (star of teenage-noir “Brick” and the TV show “Third Rock from the Sun”) and Rufus sang “Avinu Malkaynu” to appease the Jewish portion of the audience (there were some complaints last year, apparently, that the show didn't include any songs about Hanukah; Rufus explained that there are no good songs about Hanukah, then played the Hebrew hymn to compensate).
Another highlight: Camilla Thompson, sister of Teddy Thompson, doing a beautiful cover of the usually annoying George Michael song “Last Christmas.”
The evening constantly threatened to devolve into total chaos, with singers dropping their sheet music and switching mic stands, missing their cues and losing their places, although our seats were so high up that we might have been watching finely choreographed folk dancing.
A long time ago we looked at a tiny, ugly apartment in the Gramercy building in which Rufus lives. Last night, seeing Rufus sing live for the first time, made us almost regret not trading our place for that one, with its crumbling loft bed and bar sink in lieu of a kitchen, just to be close to him.