Christmas With the Wainwrights

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Martha and Rufus in the spring. Photo: Patrick McMullan

Rufus and Martha Wainwright opened their childhood living room to Carnegie Hall last night for an evening of family Christmas music. It was a typical scene — if you're used to having Lou Reed pop in to sing "White Christmas" and "Silent Night" and Laurie Anderson stop by for "O Come All Ye Faithful" and "We Three Kings," rendered as haunting dirges. The crowd — for the most part, either gay or NPR types — was bemused by Jimmy Fallon, who came off like the stranger your aunt awkwardly brought to the first Christmas after her divorce. He got better later, somewhat, cracking up through his "Baby, It's Cold Outside" duet with Martha Wainwright. Rufus mentioned a few people had complained about the lack of Hanukkah songs in last year's show but said that, after a thorough search, he'd found "there are no good Hanukkah songs." Instead, he sang one in Hebrew. "But I'm not going to sing it with an Austrian hat on," he joked, doffing his red Alpine mountain cap. David Byrne was a promised appearance who failed to show, but a surprise visit from Antony more than satisfied. He sang "Blue Christmas" like an underground Elvis and then contributed, alone, "Snowy Angel," a stirring, wistful ballad written, Antony said, by the East Village performer Baby Dee. Martha Wainwright complained to her brother for placing her after Antony; Rufus joked that following her was just as bad. But it wasn't, as his performance of "O Holy Night" in its original French rendered everything else nearly forgettable. —Aileen Gallagher