Rufus Wainwright: Tiny Desk Concert Somehow, we managed to fit a glossy black Yamaha upright piano behind the Tiny Desk. Then we tuned it and waited for some glorious moments. By the time Wainwright reached the middle of his final song, "Montauk," there were few dry eyes among the NPR employees and guests.

Tiny Desk

Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright: Tiny Desk Concert

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/157755249/160932356" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

We'd never tried to squeeze a piano behind the Tiny Desk, but when I saw a chance to have Rufus Wainwright play here, I wouldn't — and he probably wouldn't — have had it any other way. Somehow, we managed to fit a glossy black Yamaha upright against my full bookshelves. Then we tuned it and waited for some glorious moments.

Wainwright was touring behind his new album, Out of the Game, and had scheduled a more formal appearance at Wolf Trap in Virginia that evening. Here, sporting a T-shirt and shorts, he performed three songs. By the middle of his closer, "Montauk," few dry eyes remained among the NPR employees and guests.

"Montauk" is Wainwright at his best. The piano lines flow with forward motion in a Philip Glass way, and there's also a hauntingly beautiful story. Wainwright sings to his daughter Viva, whom he raises with his husband and whose biological mother is Lorca Cohen. Cohen is Leonard Cohen's daughter; Wainwright is the son of Kate McGarrigle and Loudon Wainwright III. As if there weren't enough family ties already, the song imagines Viva grown up and visiting her two fathers in Montauk, a small community on the eastern tip of Long Island.

Wainwright plaintively sings:

One day you will come to Montauk

And you will see your dad wearing a kimono

And see your other dad pruning roses

Hope you won't turn around and go

"Montauk" is the story of a modern family filled with old family worries, an emotional range familiar to the singer-songwriter.

Set List:

  • "The Art Teacher"
  • "Respectable Dive"
  • "Montauk"

Credits:

Producer and Editor: Bob Boilen; Videographers: Michael Katzif, Bob Boilen and Nick Michael; Audio Engineer: Neil Tevault; photo by Claire O'Neill/NPR

[+] read more[-] less

More From Tiny Desk

ALA.NI performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 20, 2017. (Photo: Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR/NRR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR/NRR

Tiny Desk

ALA.NI

ALA.NI captures and conveys a reverent love of early-20th-century music, while injecting those sounds with charisma and charm well suited for any era.

Maggie Rogers performs a Tiny Desk concert at NPR headquarters. Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Tiny Desk

Maggie Rogers

The rising pop star performs three of her best-known songs, including a sweet solo take on her career-making "Alaska."

Aldous Harding performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 6, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Aldous Harding

Intensity in songs often expresses itself as volume – a loud guitar, a scream, a piercing synth line. But in the case of Aldous Harding it's in the spaces, the pauses, and her unique delivery.

James Mercer of The Shins performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 19, 2017. (Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Tiny Desk

The Shins

James Mercer, the emotional and creative heart of The Shins, gives a moving performance at the Tiny Desk, with two new songs and a classic from the band's 2003 album Chutes Too Narrow.

Albin Lee Meldau performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 12, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Albin Lee Meldau

Albin Lee Meldau possesses a thunderous, deeply affecting voice, which he uses to tell some utterly dark, but demonstrably cathartic, tales.

Rare Essence performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 9, 2017. (Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Tiny Desk

Rare Essence

Rare Essence has been bringing go-go to the world since 1976 — the group brought that pedigree, and the genre's massive meld of funk, rhythm and blues and soul, to this raucous hometown Tiny Desk.

Tuxedo performs a Tiny Desk Concert on May 20th, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Tuxedo

Tuxedo, the unlikely-on-paper funk-soul duo of Mayer Hawthorne and Jake One, brought a left-of-center sonic approach and a sharp sense of style to their Tiny Desk Concert.

Fragile Rock performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 16, 2017. (Photo: Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Tiny Desk

Fragile Rock

Fragile Rock is a band that relies on the boogie of The B-52s, the melancholy of The Smiths and the humor of Kermit the Frog. Oh, and they're all puppets.

Jay Som performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 7, 2017. (Liam James Doyle/NPR) Liam James Doyle/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Liam James Doyle/NPR

Tiny Desk

Jay Som

Melina Duterte may have played all the instruments on Jay Som's newest record, Everybody Works, but her touring band brought a rougher edge to those silky recordings.

Chance The Rapper performs a Tiny Desk Concert on June 5, 2017. (Claire Harbage/NPR) Claire Harbage/NPR hide caption

toggle caption Claire Harbage/NPR

Tiny Desk

Chance The Rapper

Chance The Rapper, fresh from a 23,000-strong, sold-out show the night before, brought a thoughtful and fresh take to his Tiny Desk concert.

Back To Top