After living in the trenches of a home improvement project for a year and a half, we’re just beginning to come up for air and rediscover ordinary life.

In ordinary life, people don’t make kitchen fixtures 90 percent of their Web searches.

In ordinary life, people get to live in a room and not obsess on the building of it.

In that spirit, we bought tickets to last Saturday night’s Rufus Wainwright concert at the Uptown Theatre.

So many shows come through the Napa Valley, yet we don’t lift a finger. Why did we jump on this one?

It comes down to one word: “Hallelujah.”

Wainwright’s version of this Leonard Cohen classic is highly admired. Most particularly by Cheryl.

When she heard that Rufus “Hallelujah” Wainwright was coming to town, she began dropping little hints about how great it would be to go. I didn’t respond verbally. I preferred to make unpleasant faces.

Two days before the concert I got an email from Cheryl. She informed me there were still two unsold side-by-side tickets.

Impressed that she had done her homework, I said, fine, buy them.

Cheryl quickly set me straight. Her intent was for ME to buy them. Like now.

When the box office opened at noon, I was there. But no go. The show was essentially a sellout. Leave your name and number, the seller said, and he’d see what might open up.

I got the call three hours later. I said yes without questioning price or location.

I felt pretty good. We were coming out of our home improvement project deep freeze. We were going to a show!

Never mind that we’d bought tickets because of one song. Never mind that Rufus may never have sung any song other than “Hallelujah.”

Do you hear Rufus on the radio? You do not.

Do you hear non-”Hallelujah” Rufus thrown into random mixes on stations you have chosen on Pandora? You do not.

On a more promising note: Rufus is descended from folk music royalty. His parents are folk singers Loudon Wainwright III and the late Kate McGarrigle.

The Uptown tickets that had become available at the last moment were perhaps the two worst seats in the orchestra section, far from the stage and off to one side.

Cheryl and I looked at our location and shrugged. We weren’t at home watching TV. Hallelujah!

Rufus is a bundle of musicality who accompanies himself on guitar and piano. He put on a fine show. Original compositions about heartbreak and loss. Melodies that soared into the heavens.

I don’t know if I should confess this, but I found 75 percent of his lyrics to be unintelligible. I was disappointed at first. Enough with the crooning already! Focus on diction, Rufus.

Many in the sold-out crowd didn’t have my problem. They were from Planet Rufus. At the sound of the first note or two of a song, they lit up with happiness.

I finally decided the words didn’t matter much. I liked everything else about the guy: the sweet melodies, the passion, the humorous banter between songs. His performance mellowed me out.

After about 90 minutes, Rufus bid us good-bye, only the crowd would have none of it. We stood and hooted. And back he came.

Every song until now had been his own composition. Surely this was “Hallelujah” time.

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Nope. He ran through three more songs at the piano — wonderful, emotional, unintelligible songs.

That’s OK, I thought. You don’t have to sing “Hallelujah,” Rufus. You don’t have to pander to us rubes who know you by one song and one song only.

That’s when he turned to us, the great masses hungry for a Leonard Cohen moment. “Here you go,” he sighed.

“Now, I’ve heard there was a secret chord

That David played, and it pleased the Lord

But you don’t really care for music, do you?

It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth

The minor fall, the major lift

The baffled king composing hallelujah





Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or